National Apprenticeship Week 2020

National Apprenticeship Week 2020


Investing in the next generation is hugely important to GRADONARCHITECTURE. We believe in inspiring and teaching young people the skills they need to thrive in the workplace.  Whether this be through offering work placements or supporting and partaking in apprenticeships, we are passionate about career development and we are continuously looking for opportunities and ways to invest in the next generation of creative minds.

After first rolling out our own apprenticeship scheme in 2014 with Northumbria University, we have achieved huge success, with our first graduate, Connor Newton graduating with a fantastic First Class Honours in Architectural Technology in 2019. We also have current apprentice, Aidan Scott undertaking a four year part time apprenticeship to become a fully qualified architect.

In order to support this years National Apprenticeship Week, we partnered with local Schools to offer work experience opportunities to students looking to pursue careers in architecture. We were joined by two year 12 students from St. Thomas Moore School in Blaydon, Theo Wicks and Leon Lawrence. Both students had a keen interest in pursuing a career in architect and we offered them a week of work experience at our NE40 Studios so they could gain an insight into life as a working architect.

We chatted to Theo about his aspirations to become a future Architect as well as some prospective thoughts on the industry….

What interests you about Architecture?

Since a young age I have had an interest in Architecture, I am interested in the ability to design an entire building from scratch or to redesign and improve an existing building. I enjoy the sketching, computer designing and model production.

Have you thought about which route you may prefer, doing an Apprenticeship or a Degree?

I have thought about both, a degree seems great for learning independence and a social perspective however also has certain drawbacks which don’t appeal to me, such as large debt and less practical experience. The Apprenticeship route is therefore really appealing to me as you learn on the job, earn a salary and gain professional experience.

What have you learnt so far during your week at GRADON?

I have learnt a variety of sketching styles which are used during the initial concept stages of a project. I have also learnt how to use 2D and 3D modelling programmes such as AutoCAD and REVIT.

Has this work experience given you a better understanding of how an architectural practice works?

I had an initial ideas of how the sketching and designing process worked but this week has taught me a much more detailed and thorough understanding of the processes, skills and programmes used. This week has also enabled me to learn other aspects of an architecture business which I was previously not as aware of, such as the marketing and business development side of the company. I found I was surprised by how important these elements were for helping win projects for the architects and to create engagement and awareness of the business which is crucial for sustaining connections within the industry.

Over the course of the week, Leon and Theo were given a design brief to redesign our very own NE40 Studios and propose ideas for a residential and office space which utilised the features and layout of our existing Church building. The brief gave them a chance to pursue their independent creative ideas and collaborate with each other through design development whilst also under the supervision of the Gradon design team who were on hand to offer their experience and teach them how to use specialist industry programmes. Following a week of design development, Leon and Theo presented their ideas to the team and we caught up with them discuss their designs!

Leon completed a design review of his work and talked us through the ideas, development and improvements he would make to his final design….

What is the concept behind your design?

To redesign the Gradon Church, future proofing it for the possibility of it becoming a home. This meant that the Church would primarily be designed as a house, but could also be converted to an office, both before and after.

What are some of the features of your design?

The ground floor contains a study, a large open space, living area and a large kitchen, I kept this space as open plan as possible so that it could be a spacious living area or a large office space for businesses to operate from. The first floor has 3 bedrooms, 1 bathroom, a master with en-suite and a landing area which contains a seating area. I created this first floor so that there was more available space which could be used for further office space or more bedrooms. There is also the possibility of converting of converting a large space at the top of the ceiling into a loft space, which would create even more options for how the building could be utilised.

If you could further develop your design how would you do this?

If I were to further develop my design I would add either more rooms or more detail to the downstairs living area, although the aesthetic and function of the design of the design works well for its many purpose however I believe the addition of further flexible spaces would enable the space to be used more efficiently.

Following the successful work experience week for the students and the Gradon team, Gradon’s Managing Director, Graham McDarby said,

 “We are delighted to have hosted work experience this week at our Studios, apprenticeships are hugely important to us and we are particularly proud to have started our own apprenticeship scheme ahead of the current, now recognised national apprenticeship schemes. We truly believe that apprenticeships provide better and more rounded opportunities than just “academia” for our emerging talent and youth. Providing opportunities for students like Leon and Theo to experience the workplace and gain knowledge and professional experience from our talented and diverse team has therefore been is therefore crucial for the development of young people and to prepare them for the next stage of their careers, whether that be through the traditional route, or by taking advantage of the new apprenticeship schemes emerging that provide financial and professional incentives. We will continue to engage with students from local schools and offer apprenticeships and look forward to more of Our People graduating in the near future.”