Ambassadors for Architectural Education

At Watson Batty Architects we are committed to supporting architectural education and over recent years we’ve participated in numerous initiatives to help the next generation on their pathway to future careers in the built environment.

From our Leeds and Loughborough studios a number of our colleagues have demonstrated their commitment and dedication to education by supporting and working alongside the RIBA, educational organisations, universities and schools across the UK, alongside their busy daily schedules in practice. From our Directors to our newest team members, there is a strong interest, passion and enthusiasm towards mentoring and guiding the future talent of the industry.

Cath Wheater, who joined Watson Batty Architects last year as an Architectural Assistant, is an active RIBA Architecture Ambassador, an initiative which partners architecture professionals with primary/high schools to help design and deliver creative architectural workshops. More recently, Cath has also been involved in assisting the RIBA Education team with a new programme release into schools called ‘reading architecture’ which involved her doing a mini talking head video; a ‘day in the life’ of working practice, along with explaining how she became interested in the profession and the skills required. This acted as part of an introduction to reading architecture projects and inspirational testimonials from architecture books in schools to familiarise children with the subject from an earlier age.

Alongside Cath are Regional Director Richard Crowson and Architect Daniel Lowe who are also enthusiastic members of the RIBA Architecture Ambassadors programme, helping inspire children and young people about the potential and significance of the built environment. This enables school pupils to obtain the additional information they may require and/or valuable insight they need to allow them to select the best study route into higher/further education. Furthermore, both Richard and Daniel are working with a careers organisation in Leicestershire to help provide an architect themed ‘Careers in the Built Environment’ video for secondary school pupils aged 14-16 as well as supporting the Leicestershire & Rutland RIBA Branch (LRSA) to help develop school’s careers events/support as part of their annual ‘Love Architecture’ festival.

Under the guidance of Associate Director Ben Pickersgill, Watson Batty Architects provides work experience opportunities for Year 6 pupils from local schools, welcoming five pupils aged between 15 – 18 for a week’s placement at both our Leeds and Loughborough studios. This allows the students to gain valuable first-hand experience of the work environment and the role of an Architect as well as developing their own creative skills in various tasks over the week. Rewardingly, several students have progressed into a career in Architecture, including some being directly employed by the practice. This, alongside other initiatives the practice takes part in, helps local school pupils make informed choices about their future careers and the exciting opportunities available to them. Over the past 12 months we have explored alternative virtual media methods to help provide local pupils with work experience in light of the Covid pandemic.

For those students at University who have chosen Architecture as their career path, the practice is involved in numerous ways to help assist them on their journey with one such initiative being RIBA Student Mentoring. Completing in May this year, the practice is involved in two mentor schemes, the RIBA East Midlands Student Mentor scheme involving two Part 1 students from De Montfort University (DMU), Leicester, and Loughborough University RIBA Schools of Architecture and the e-mentoring scheme for students at the University of Sheffield where Martin Bradley, who joined the practice in July 2020 as a Project Architect, is the Mentee. As well as covering a range of topics currently of interest in the industry, such as sustainability, the sessions provide an insight into the individual careers in the built environment of those at WBA based on their experiences to date as well as the overall project process, how projects develop over time and the cycle of design development.

Preparing for interviews can be a daunting experience for many, particularly for students when being considered for a job that will be the stepping stone into their career professions. To allow the students to feel better prepared when the time comes, our regional directors Richard Crowson and Rima Yousif recently attended a Loughborough University school of architecture ‘Placement’ event via Teams with other UK wide architectural practices. This provided an opportunity for six Part 1 students to have mock interviews and receive feedback on their CV’s and portfolios ahead of their year out placements this Summer. Furthermore, Rima, alongside Director Andrew Grindrod, continue in their roles as RIBA Part 3 External Examiners, supporting candidates as they take their first steps into the profession as qualified architects. Andrew supports the University of Huddersfield and the Architectural Association in London while Rima supports De Montfort University, Leicester. Rima is also an active member of Women in Property and is currently helping members become what they aspire to be and to realise career potential in the construction and built environment sectors.

Making the move from academic study to being a professional in practice can be a daunting experience. To help better equip students with the skills and mindset to enable a smoother transition into the workplace environment, our team participates in a range of courses, events and initiatives. Including student mentoring and MHFA (mental health first aider) training/refresher courses (with RIBA + ARB) to supporting studio project reviews, providing mock interviews and CV/portfolio advice working regionally alongside RIBA schools of architecture, being active participants in RIBA regions/branches, working alongside fellow professionals and academic staff and supporting RIBA Future Architects.

Assisting with the education of the next generation includes keeping everyone up to date and informed regarding current and future challenges to the architecture profession. More recently with regard to the RIBA’s ‘Way Ahead’ framework for education and professionals, in particular, RIBA mandatory competencies and ARB competence guidelines regarding sustainability/climate literacy, life safety and professional ethics. In his role as Chair of the RIBA East Midlands Education Group, working with the five local RIBA schools of architecture, Richard Crowson has made sustainability the theme for this year’s RIBA East Midlands Student Awards. Helping to promote and recognise the importance of designing sustainably and protecting the global environment within our schools of architecture and the profession.

All the above helps give greater insight into the architecture profession, the design stages and the scope of the industry, however being able to see this in action first-hand can be extremely beneficial in providing students of all ages with the bigger picture of what a day in the life of an Architect might involve. The pandemic saw a reduction in construction work across the country and site visits have been of a rarity, meaning lack of access being granted to allow students to see this important aspect of the project. To help combat this, a more recent initiative being set up by our Loughborough studio for one of our new projects, the Tennis Centre at Loughborough University, is several Teams sessions including with Bowmer and Kirkland over the next few months which will allow their architecture students to follow a live project.

Andrew Grindrod, Director, added, “Watson Batty Architects continue to recognise the importance of supporting the next generation through current education and mentoring work ensuring we are doing our part in supporting and developing future members of the profession. I am proud of our team involved and the level of importance they place on this work and we look forward to many exciting future initiatives”.