As a practice, we recognise the importance of approaching Corporate Social Responsibility in a coordinated and committed manner to make a positive impact to our clients, partners, local community, the environment and importantly, with our future focused culture at the forefront of what we do, the next generation.
Through our culture, our work in the community and both our environmental and ethical policies, we strive to ensure our part in CSR is brought to the attention of our staff at all times, actively encouraging that the utmost effort is given to operate in an ethical manner, both currently and with the impact upon the future in mind.
Being future focused, we value diversity in the workplace and believe in caring for our employees, encouraging continual learning and development opportunities across the business. This extends to the future workforce and we understand the importance of providing opportunities for the next generation whether this be through work experience and placements, learning seminars or education days. As a recognised RIBA Student Mentor practice, we believe the profession has a responsibility towards encouraging those who wish to pursue a career not only as architects but in the wider built environment.
Wherever possible Watson Batty Architects provides work experience opportunities for local schools where pupils have a shown a keen interest in the architecture and construction industries. Each year, we welcome approximately five pupils, aged between 15 – 18, for a week’s placement in our offices, based in either Leeds or Loughborough. This allows the students to gain first-hand experience of the work environment, receive a brief overview of what a job as an Architect involves and use their creative skills in various tasks over the week. Further ahead we are looking to develop and support initiatives with fellow built environment disciplines/organisations to help local school pupils make informed choices about their future careers and exciting opportunities for all in the built environment sector.
We annually support the RIBA’s Student Mentoring programme, in collaboration with the RIBA East Midlands regional office, providing invaluable support to RIBA Part 1 students at the Leicester School of Architecture, De Montfort University. On each occasion we undertake to provide two or three students each academic year with practice experience, site visits, an opportunity to attend project meetings and an insight into the working life of an architectural practice. This takes place over the course of each academic year and involves a minimum of three dedicated half day events in addition to providing ongoing contact with each allocated student.
We also provide further support to De Montfort University through a number of ways; their ‘Graduate Champion’ scheme, providing short term employment for RIBA Part 1 architecture graduates and their annual student enhancement week, providing support to Part 1 students with mock interviews and assisting with preparing CV’s.
Our work for the next generation extends beyond the practice environment, and many of our senior staff hold key roles at educational bodies and groups across the region, regularly taking up work through this in support of learning, skills enhancement and future development. For our Loughborough office, this also extends to the assistance in the planning of annual events through being active members of the local RIBA branch (Leicestershire & Rutland Society of Architects) including the annual, month long ‘Love Architecture’ festival in Leicester.
Director Andrew Grindrod and Regional Director Rima Yousif are both RIBA Part 3 External Examiners. Andrew has supported the University of Huddersfield for 4 years and the Architectural Association, London for 2 years, and Rima has supported De Montfort University for 2 years. Prior to undertaking examinations, both Andrew and Rima are directly involved in dialogue with staff at both Schools of Architecture to help achieve school objectives.
Our Regional Director Richard Crowson is Chair of the RIBA East Midlands Education Group and works with all six local universities and RIBA schools of architecture in the East Midlands supporting students, national and regional programmes regarding collaborative research between academia and professional practice, student wellbeing (including mental health), student engagement with practice, design charettes, and the annual RIBA student awards. Recently this has extended to supporting initiatives regarding Part 2 mentoring. Through this role Richard also supported the development of seminars for practitioners and university staff/students in the area regarding mental health with specialist inputs from ABS (Architects Benevolent Society), MIND, Anxiety UK and MHFA England.
In 2019 Richard helped initiate and support the first ‘architecture ambassador’ programme with Leicestershire schools as part of the RIBA’s National Schools initiative. Our Loughborough office took part with one of our client schools, South Charnwood High School, holding a half day classroom-based design workshop. Furthermore, Richard has driven the practices support in the development of one of the UK’s newest architecture schools at Loughborough University, attending studio events, taking part in assessments, undertaking presentations and more recently providing a ‘real work environment’ situation.
Educating the next generation is of great importance, and our Director Mark Sidding, also lead of our Education sector, knows the importance of getting this knowledge first-hand and how beneficial this can be for students across all levels of education. Mark has led numerous workshops with primary school pupils including a design day at the Ruth Gorse Academy in Leeds which was supported by the RIBA Architecture Ambassadors scheme. Mark worked alongside the academy and The Tetley, a centre for contemporary art at the heart of Leeds’ South Bank who kindly offered to be the client, to create a design day working with a group of 16 year 7,8 and 9 students. The day itself received excellent feedback with Sarah Johnston, Lead teacher of Art at The Ruth Gorse Academy commenting:
“The design day was absolutely fantastic! Both the students and staff really enjoyed the site visit, explaining that they enjoyed looking at architecture in a completely different light. The day left them inspired and one student in particular has expressed that architecture is now a career path they are interested in pursuing. I hope to continue the project again next year…I have asked for it to be in the school calendar already!”
More recently, Cath Wheater, who joined the practice this month as a Part 2 Architectural Assistant, is an RIBA Architectural Ambassador; young professionals who partner with schools to inspire children and young people about the potential of the built environment.
With work experience students already scheduled in for the year 2020 and our work with external groups, boards and future development days continuing, Watson Batty Architects are committed as a practice in supporting the future of our profession, including diversity, focusing our #FutureBuilt ethos into not only the project work we undertake, but the next generation of Architects too!