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Year out: No placements, no worries

The year out should be seen as an opportunity for personal development in and around architecture, says the RIBA President-elect

There are many alternatives to employment in an architect’s office that can be demonstrated by the student to have enhanced their understanding of the built environment and the architect’s role in its creation.

There are activities that are directly related to architecture such as entering competitions and those in related activities, such as labouring on a building site (obtaining skills such as plastering and plumbing that are good life skills in their own right); architectural journalism and working for other built environment professions such as engineers.

Travel is an excellent opportunity to observe architecture and urban design in different social, economic and metrological climates. Getting under the skin of different cultures and understanding how the conditions have shaped their built environment is a good springboard for post graduate architectural studies.

If none of this is possible and the need for an income and occupation leads to employment in a completely different field it is still possible for the student to draw conclusions from how the buildings have affected the working environment and to enquire and record how they could be improved. Understanding our client’s needs is, after all one of our key skills.

  • The RIBA has launched Host Practice, a new initiative where practices and universities can offer architecture students desk spaces or research opportunities. Find out more

Readers' comments (14)

  • This trite, naive and entirely out-of-touch offering assumes quite a number of things to assist the luckless year-out student: income from another source to facilitate several of the activities (Jobseeker's Allowance might just about cover costs of job applications) such as travelling and whiling away one's time on competitions most of which have PQQs that no student could satisfy; building sites still open where competition for work from experienced tradespersons and labourers is not an issue; other employment where there is similar limited job competition; patient employers prepared to listen to analyses of their business operations . All this from the President-elect of the RIBA. Read the papers, Ms Reed, and get real, there are now 835,000 people or 1 in 6 of those between the ages of 16 and 24 in England not in education, employment or training. Crass paliatives from your easy chair are no answer.

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  • Hm. The construction industry has slowed to a grinding halt, and architecture graduates are unable to find work. But now I know! I'll go and work as a labourer, plasterer or plumber! Because there's loads of work in the construction industry...


    This level of mediocre Portland-Place-party-speak makes me so angry. This recession looks set to see a complete destruction of good work done by universities in the last decade, as the diversity of the profession retrenches to its middle and upper class roots. The RIBA attitude towards this potential 'lost generation' favours those from families wealthy enough to support travel, competition entries and the massive hangover of student debt that a 3+2 year course now brings with it. We are going to lose vital young talent, and it will be those from lower income groups first.

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  • No major new insight here from the RIBA. The article is incredibly short for what should be considered a highly important topic for the future of the profession.

    Agree with Roger and James' comments. As a year out student I completed 8 months in practice before being given the boot (more affluent colleagues chose to stay for no pay and get their PEDRs signed). Since then I have worked in an unrelated field spending much of the day staring out of the window just like Ruth.

    Outside of that time, I have submitted a competition entry along with a fellow year out student, done voluntary work in a gallery and work with the student society of my university. So it is possible to keep some connection with creative work whilst outside of the profession, but to get such unrealistic and simplistic advice from the RIBA is almost insulting.

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  • Very well put Roger and James, I don't know what else to add except to second you opinions, which are bang on the money.

    The interview is extremely niave and is insulting to recent graduates such as myself. I would request the AJ to carry out a graduate employment study ' 3 months on' since their last survey. I think it would be extremely telling, consdiering we, the students, have all graduated now. Over to you AJ.

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  • It is surprising that Ms Reed seems not to have consulted the AJ's survey of year-out students' views of this matter published on this site on 21 May. Only 13% said unequivocally they would work for nothing, the implication being that 87% could not undertake any of the life-affirming activities suggested by Ms Reed in lieu of actual employment. Perhaps Ms Reed might wish to revise her suggestions?

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  • looks like people in high positions around the world

    are groping in the dark ? when it comes to issues at fundamental levels,surprising to see such comments,

    let there be more coherent functioning in orgonisations to takle issues issues and consteuctive
    programmes framed up to tackle all with long term perspectives!
    and co-ordinated approach alround.

    rameshprasad. bangalore.india.

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  • I've posted a full response to Ruth's article on my blog, from a personal perspective as a year out student. Hope it is a constructive and interesting read...

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  • I have to agree with everything said so far on here. the subsequent collapse of of the construction and regeneration boom in the north has further restricted anyone looking for work currently based there like myself.

    Firms are trying to shed jobs left right and centre, and there is no chance for any students to get a job - and this advice is laughable. as mentioned it could only apply to those with parents flush with money to fund these activities. Realistically there are people working 70hour weeks so they can pay the rent but also get experience at a firm by working for free - something I am considering. It seems a shame, the attitude toward this issue from the powers that be is so laxidazical. Honestly they have let down the current crop of graduates, and you have to wonder whether you want to be associated with such a group who allow someone to make such ill advised suggestions.

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  • one more thing, does she realise you need to be qualified in order to do some of these alternate careers? you dont just wonder up to a building site and say you want to be a plumber? and secondly and im a little bit disturbed by this, but the lack of incentive for firms to even take on voluntary/unpaid positions?! I have been turned down from a number of places as of yesterday after offering voluntary services just to get the experience necessary. ultimately im now on the hook for £18000 like many others in loans, for a degree about as useful as a degree in david beckham studies.

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  • I'm afraid you can't blame Portland Place for the recession. These are tough times and I agree with Ruth. One thing I would like her to do when she gets there is put a lid on the Portland Place staff pension scheme and remember where the money to fund it is coming from.

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  • Having read a selection of Mr Stamford's comments, he appears to be something of a cynical troll.

    Where in the comments above is anyone blaming RIBA for the recession? The point is they are not providing relevant support, instead this article is an example of unhelpful and impractical advice from the elected president of the organisation that represents the profession.

    What exactly are you 'agreeing' with? That graduates should retrain as plumbers?

    Also, if you are so concerned about RIBA pensions, you can always cancel your membership.

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  • James, dont become bitter yourself - Architecture is tough in good and bad times - in my experience there is little or no time for moaners, especially when you have not proven yourself.

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  • There's a difference between moaning and constructive criticism.

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  • how about ruth gives up the swanky flat the riba pays for her out of OUR subscriptions and instead we set a job-seeling travel bursary for architectural students - ruth - why apply if you cant afford to live in london ? -

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