September of 2019 I signed up to a 4 year degree apprenticeship in Architecture with my employer and London South Bank University. I am now 1 last submission away from completing my degree and starting my End Point Assessment (EPA). It’s incredibly difficult to summarise my thoughts and lessons learnt throughout this process, but here is my best attempt!
Why Architecture? Why an Apprenticeship?
If you were to ask my Mum, she would say that I’ve wanted to be an Architect since age 12. I don’t really know where this has stemmed from since this isn’t something you’re exposed to at school, however the Sims probably had something to do with it…
I have family in the design and construction industries, so naturally this was likely to be an area I drifted towards. I believe Architecture is a great mix of the engineering, landscape architecture and construction based exposure I experienced growing up.
Architecture was something that for a long time I didn’t think would be an option available to me, largely due to now wanting to spend a minimum of 5 years in full-time education. The student debt, typical lifestyle and thought of having to move away never appealed to me. Unfortunately, taking the part-time route is even more expensive than the full-time course, so although I could have worked a part-time job around the course, I would have ended up in even more debt.
It wasn’t until I heard of the Architectural Apprenticeship scheme that I really felt this was a viable option for myself. The opportunity to work, earn and learn in a pattern that meant I only attend 1 day a week, yet only takes a year longer than the full-time course made sense to me.
The most obvious positive for myself was being able to jump straight into an architectural practice at 18. Being able to start my career, avoiding the typical 3 year period at university was my biggest pull to choosing this mode of study. I have gained a huge amount of valuable experience within these 4 years with my employer, and had opportunities that only this mode of study has been able to offer.
The support from my employer has been monumental in my studies, especially being assigned a practice mentor and having weekly sit-down’s to review my progress academically. I genuinely feel as though my employer does what is best for me, and listens to any needs or concerns if they arise. This support has been above and beyond anything received at university, largely due to the knowledge of my colleagues and their more current real-world experience. It is also important to say that my tutors at university have been fantastic, however with only being there 1 day a week, there is a clear difference in the relationship between full-timers and tutors and the apprentices and their tutors.
Time management and a lack of social life are the two main challenges I face as an architecture student working full time. Balancing both my work responsibilities and my academic commitments leaves little time for personal and social activities. This led to a few occasions where I felt I was on the path to potentially being ‘burnt out’, as I was trying to spread myself too thin.
I work 09:00 - 17:30 4 days a week, and then travel into London every Tuesday to attend university in person. My evenings and weekends are spent doing my university work, meaning I have to consciously make an effort to effectively manage my time in order to get everything done. As a result, my social life has definitely been compromised doing the apprenticeship. At times this has impacted negatively upon my mental health, leading to feelings of isolation and general high-stress, but with the support from my employer I have always met deadlines.
It became crucial for me to actively maintain friendships and relationships with family, as well as schedule my time for my academic work. That is not to say that it always worked, as around deadline season you cannot help but give your university work your all, but for the most part the balance was there!
Overall, I have absolutely loved my apprenticeship and couldn’t imagine studying through any other method. Going forwards, I aim to undertake the Level 7 Masters of Architecture apprenticeship to qualify as an Architect, so I have clearly valued this route and have enjoyed my apprenticeship overall.
If the Level 6 Architectural Assistant apprenticeship is something you’re interested in, so long as you manage your time effectively from the start, I believe it to be a great way of gaining your qualifications for free and with 4 years of industry experience.