Embracing the next Generation of Architects
It was a great pleasure to be invited to the BIG 5 Revisited programme to join industry experts to discuss the need to bridge the architecture and design management skills gap between academia and practice, and the preparedness of students to enter the workplace.
Hosted by IE University of Madrid and with leading practice representatives from Gensler and GAJ, the session was broadcast globally as part of the BIG 5 International Exhibition and Construction Show in Dubai.
The thought-provoking discussion identified several aspects on how to more successfully integrate the next generation of architects into practice and stressed on how critical it is to upskill their readiness to be able to contribute to solving the ever growing complexities of todays challenges that encompasses not only project work within the transformative context of decarbonising the industry in response to the Climate Emergency (which is at its’ fledgling stages), but also within the context of rapid digital transformation. The practice of architecture must evolve at an exceptional pace, never witnessed throughout history.
Traditionally architectural education combines the study of both theory and practice and requires a large component of practical experience which is needed for any architect’s qualification into practice.
Academia and industry must thus come together and collide during the educational process, to provide a combined knowledge and skills base for the preparation of any architectural student. Skills and knowledge gaps have thus had ample opportunities to be narrowed, yet the need to bridge the gap has certainly been called for over the last generation, since I first entered practice, and seeming the need appears to be increasing not narrowing.
Practice needs to better support the content of the education process to allow academia to provide better valued content to its customers, the students. There is a need to seek out a more direct correlation between the topics covered and those which are needed by employers to better prepare students. It is only through greater dialogue and collaboration that these additional pieces to the puzzle will be known and can be introduced, then standards of the product delivered “the education” will be improved and more relevant to the customer, who in turn will be of greater value to the prospective employer.
Mentorship programmes are one way of addressing this, I have been part of structured mentoring organisations for several years, and more recently have been invited to be involved in a growing number University programmes. Those which I am involved with are designed to offer “career” mentorship on a one-to-one bases at either the final stages of courses, as students are preparing to enter the marketplace; at the fresh graduate stage where students have left the academic space; or for young professionals who are steering the pathway of their early careers. These programmes can offer fantastic opportunities for confidence building and individual growth for both mentee and mentor alike, they are time consuming though, and tailored to specific individual needs. A more all-encompassing solution needs to be offered at mass scale within the general education process to offer guidance and expertise to all, and which is tailored to the skills needed in 21st Century practice, those of critical thinking, problem solving, confidence building along with digitalisation, sustainable development and climate awareness to equip today’s’ graduates for tomorrow’s workplace.
Tags #big5revisited, #skillsgap, #architectureeducation, #professionalpractice, #mentoring, #digitaltransformation, #sustainabledesign
This blog was created by tangram’s Design Director and founder of tangramTERRA Ms Sandra Woodall, a passionate environmentalist, architect, urbanist, researcher, pre-covid travelholic and baker of vegan treats. She is a Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), the Royal Society of Arts (RSA), and the Academy of Urbanism (AoU). Sandra is an award-winning designer who leads our MENA region studio who were recognised as the “2019 MENA Architecture Firm of the Year” by the Middle East Economic Digest (MEED), and who have received accolades including six international sustainable design awards for five different projects in four years. She is the RIBA Regional Ambassador for Sustainability, promoting and developing UK design and management skills across the MENA region, and is the UAE country representative on the RIBA Gulf Chapter. She founded, curates and presents the Chapters’ ongoing “Sustainable Development Series” to share awareness, knowledge, skills, tools and best practice with built environment professionals across the GCC and to showcase projects, methods, procedures and strategies to empower and equip us all to meet the challenges faced in delivering the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals across the region.