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RIBA on the hunt for more practices to take on apprentices

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RIBA board member and Scott Brownrigg’s director of practice Helen Taylor has challenged architecture firms to take on more apprentices

Last September the first group of architectural apprentices started their professional journeys at leading practices such as Allford Hall Monaghan Morris, Hawkins\Brown and PRP, as a major new training initiative got under way.

And firms like AtelierWest, Get Planning and Architecture, Ingleton Wood, and To-Do Design also began pioneering two types of apprenticeships as a route into the profession in collaboration with London South Bank University.

But the RIBA says many more firms are needed to help the trailblazing ‘earn and learn’ programme created in response to the government’s Apprenticeship Levy.

Below Scott Brownrigg’s Helen Taylor sets out how practices can make the move and help a young hopeful break into architecture.

How to find an apprentice for your practice

Do you have an apprentice yet? writes Helen Taylor. If not, what’s stopping you? Size is not a barrier. Although larger practices have to pay into the apprenticeship levy that then funds the university fees, smaller practices can take on an apprentice and only need to fund 10 per cent of their fees. And pay the living wage…

Apprentices are your employees and, like any other student, they are not free labour. If the commitment or the length of the course puts you off, be assured that flexibility has been built it.

The minimum commitment is one year but, if the arrangement isn’t working, if you’re concerned about having enough work for them, or if they want a different experience or need to relocate due to family circumstances, apprenticeships are transferable. They will have the same terms and conditions, sick pay and holiday as any other member of staff.

There is some additional paperwork – the employer, the apprentice and the school of architecture sign a ‘tri-party’ agreement – to set out roles and responsibilities and expectations. Wouldn’t every Part 2 and Part 3 student in practice benefit from that?

And you do need to support your apprentice – they are learning. At least 20 per cent of the apprentice’s paid hours must be spent on ‘off the job training’. Whether they are school leavers or experienced technicians who want to become qualified architects, they will need your support and mentoring to make it a success.

And, like part-time study of any kind, it won’t suit everyone. It is an alternative route to qualification, not the only one. You can start as a full-time student and transfer to an apprenticeship, or vice-versa.

Since the trailblazer group – supported by the RIBA and ARB – developed the two apprenticeship standards last year, over 60 students have begun their journeys into the profession.

Where do you find these apprentices?

Well in the pilot year, ours came via our long relationship with the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust, existing staff, and the universities themselves, but you can advertise locally or centrally through the Institute of Apprenticeships website. Or just let your local school of architecture know you’re open to the idea.

What if you don’t have a school of architecture offering apprenticeships nearby?

Schools are offering a mix of day release and block release so you don’t have to be on the doorstep. Northumbria, Oxford Brookes and Southbank are already in the midst of their pilot year. With Portsmouth, Manchester, Cambridge and others coming forward, the geographical reach is good.

Scott Brownrigg’s two level 7 (Parts 2 and 3) and one level 6 (Part I) apprentices are already half-way through their first year and we are now looking to take on more.

And, like everything, the devil is in the detail – we are really keen to share our experience because expressions of interest from students are arriving daily but we can’t meet the demand on our own. More schools of architecture are planning to offer apprenticeships from this September, expanding the reach across the country.

We are excited to be on the journey with our apprentices and the schools of architecture to make this initiative a success. We believe it will have a positive impact on the profession and strengthen the relationship between practice and academia. The collaboration and sharing of experience across the trailblazer group of practices is continuing. We need you.

4-8 March marks National Apprenticeship Week – a week designed to celebrate apprenticeships and the positive impact they have on individuals, businesses and the wider economy.

Find out more about architecture apprenticeships here

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