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CPD and the future of Architectural learning and education.

Updated: Dec 18, 2023

What is CPD?

In broad terms, Continuing Professional Development (CPD for short) enables us to strengthen and improve upon both our individual and collective competencies and keep pace with standards of one’s profession. This is achieved through expert communication with a wide network of professionals, helping us to plug the gaps in our education. When planned correctly CPD’s enable businesses to drive their own growth; whether that empowers a particular social, moral or ethical approach to working or helps sharpen knowledge in specific subject matter. CPD ensures that an individual remains competent in their profession and is fit to deliver a service to their clients and the wider community. It’s an ongoing process, so continues throughout a professional’s career.

In all contexts, the purpose of CPD is to encourage discussion, learning and upskilling. It is an excellent way to push individuals, companies and industries forward and is often the springboard for new ideas and inspiration. Frequent and varied CPD attendance can establish a competitive edge in one’s chosen industry; perhaps helping to gain expertise in a certain type of work or simply to evaluate existing working practices and areas for development.

CPD in Architecture

CPD plays a pivotal role within the architectural industry. The result of well-organised CPD is that it safeguards not only the professional and their career but also the client, the public and the occupation as a whole. Our appreciation of what it means to be a professional is bolstered and well-structured CPD acts as a constant reminder of the implications and impact our work can have in a wider context. We are here to improve the quality of life for those in our towns and cities, design with sensitivity and respect to our environment and to utilise sustainable materials to name a few. Therefore, perhaps the most exciting aspect of CPD within our industry is how it helps a person remain curious and engaged. In turn, this makes Architects more open to new possibilities, more willing to acquire new knowledge and keener to test out new skills. As a RIBA Chartered practice, WR-AP respects that we have an obligation to connect with various professionals across the construction industry and CPD sessions are a prime opportunity for this. On the RIBA’s website it introduces it’s ‘Core Curriculum’ as first point of contact:

The RIBA Core Curriculum has been created by the RIBA for its members to ensure that key architectural skills are covered in learning activities. Chartered members are obliged to undertake a minimum of 20 of their yearly 35 hours CPD from this curriculum, with two hours of CPD time in each of ten key topics.

Source: RIBA CPD Programme

The 10 key topics are defined as follows: 01 – Architecture for social purpose; 02 – Health, safety and wellbeing; 03 – Business, clients and services; 04 – Legal, regulatory and statutory compliance; 05 – Procurement and contracts; 06 – Sustainable architecture; 07 – Inclusive environments; 08 – Places, planning and communities; 09 – Building conservation and heritage; 10 – Design, construction and technology.

We pride ourselves on having a strong focus on creating evocative and performance-led architecture. Our ambition is for our work to be as efficient as possible with respect to the brief at hand, while maintaining a connection to place. So when it comes to arranging CPD sessions, we first consult the Core Curriculum topics and request the expertise of an RIBA-approved provider. These companies are members of the RIBA CPD Providers Network and have been rigorously assessed by the RIBA, thus are able to demonstrate that they deliver up-to-date, accurate and leading proficiency in a given field.

By our very nature, Architects are passionate and tenacious people with an optimistic outlook. We believe in a vision and are always evaluating ways to engage with, and improve upon, our surroundings. We create value. We may be even described as ‘idealists’, keen to make a difference to the lives of clients where we can. We are able to empathise with a client and aim to understand what their priorities truly are. A large proportion of professionals with the industry fall into the ‘INTJ Personality Type’, with 16 Personalities referring to this personality type as the ‘Architect’. The abbreviation stands for ‘Introverted, Intuitive, Thinking and Judging’, and these traits accurately illustrate us as thoughtful, rational, analytical, ambitious, proud and hungry for knowledge. This last point in particular is where CPD sessions show their truest value. Architects are constantly learning and want to do so. You’ll find us preparing for a CPD by researching into the sector of the industry to be discussed by the provider, to enable us to ask coherent and appropriate questions. We don’t expect to acquire their level of expertise but it is important for us to understand the fundamentals to allow us to pass this on to our own clients. While we have our own skills and proficiencies, it is important to keep our wider knowledge current and correct. For the most part Architects are designers and assemblers of products created and tested by other professionals, so it is imperative to keep this hunger for learning.

ARB discussion document – ‘Modernising the initial education and training of architects’

The Architects Registration Board have recently been consulting on how the industry and profession may be changing in the not-too-distant future, particularly with respect to the way we are trained and how we approach CPD. In their discussion document ‘Modernising the initial education and training of architects’, the ARB acknowledges that there is a need to change the education and training of architects in order to better meet current and future challenges, with specific reference to fire safety, sustainability, diversity, equality and inclusivity. How will we tackle sustainability in the wake of our current climate emergency? Can the embryonic concepts for our buildings take into account the need to conserve natural resources and minimise carbon emissions? Can we design for future adaption? How can architects better implement appropriate fire safety strategies and how should we continue to develop our knowledge in these areas? The reform is designed to make certain that architects acquire the appropriate understanding, skills and practical experience within their training to enable them to succeed as responsible and effective practitioners.

The requirements for registration as an architect have been in place since 2010 and, somewhat embarrassingly, the educational training has been structured in largely the same way since 1958. Six decades without meaningful change – the reform is long overdue. The evidence gathered during the consultation process states:

…that while UK architectural education is globally respected and continues to attract students from all over the world, without modernisation, higher education institutions will be stuck with an inflexible model and their students may not achieve the competencies required in future.

Until 2018, the only available route to qualification was to attain an undergraduate degree of typically three years known as Part 1; before again completing a postgraduate/Masters for a further two years to achieve the level of Part 2. In order to reach full qualification, the architect-in-training then has to complete and record a minimum of two years practical training and sit professional examinations. As such, qualification (or Part 3) through this system has taken the individual at least seven years to complete but only provided a maximum of two years on-the-job experience. As a consequence, many people feel that they need more time before going through the processes for registration just to build the core competencies and confidence to practice as an architect. Of course, this type of education has created some fine architects who have proven to show the required passion, ability and resilience to succeed in practice. However, it must be noted that this type of schooling has potentially dissuaded thousands of brilliant aspiring architects from ever even starting their training. The barriers to such as expensive education have inadvertently acted as a promoter of inequality and exclusivity over time. People from less affluent environments or those without an existing professional network have missed out on the opportunity to fulfil their ambitions as a result. Sadly, the likelihood is that those from minority groups and poorer backgrounds will have suffered disproportionately. We know that student loans were created in order to enable those from less privileged upbringings to pursue a university education. However, because of the sheer length of the training to become an architect, the loan amount often amounts to tens of thousands which is understandably off-putting for many.

In June 2018 there did seem to be a ray of light. An alternative route to qualification was approved by the Institute for Apprenticeships for the Level 6 degree apprenticeship; the Architectural Assistant apprenticeship. This finally promised a flexible alternative with practical training and focuses on the delivery of the equivalent undergraduate Part 1 qualification, over a period of four years. The Institute simultaneously approved the standard for the Level 7 degree Architect Apprenticeship; another four year programme that includes the training required for Part 2 and full post-Part 3 registration. For comparison, someone training through this approach could achieve full qualification in eight years whilst being able to demonstrate that all eight of those years were completed within a suitable practice with real-world experience. It’s a more inclusive entry route for many and should help to turn the tide on equality and diversity. The result of which would be a workforce more representative of its community, thus naturally encouraging more applicants from minority backgrounds. One may even argue that it could better guarantee professional competence given that the training would take place within the working environment. Surprisingly though, this method has not become as widely adopted as one may have hoped to date.

A critical part of the educational reform emphasises the improvement needed in the construction industry’s understanding and implementation of fire safety. In the wake of the Grenfell Tower tragedy in 2017, Dame Judith Hackitt produced a report that highlighted the shortcomings of the industry with respect to Building Regulations and Fire Safety following an intensive review. Among several recommendations ‘was that the ARB, working with partners, should consider the future competence levels of those architects on the Register of Architects, and those joining the Register, in relation to fire safety design issues.’ The ARB reports that a more fundamental review that evaluates where such proficiencies sit within an architect’s remit is required. Perhaps most telling in the responses to the consultation from practicing architects is the quantity of professionals would recognise that there is a void in our current knowledge base. Architects were asked for their views on their current scope of tasks within their role and how they anticipate these changing over time:

– 96% felt that they would require further competency in fire and life safety

– 88% felt that competence in sustainability needs to be stressed

– 86% felt that incorporating new technology was important.

As has already been discussed, architects are keen to continue acquiring knowledge and want to do the right thing. I believe that there will be overwhelming support for the forthcoming restructuring from industry practitioners as we look to protect the community we serve.

To WR-AP up

Architects are bound by a code of conduct and respect that this helps to preserve the profession but, most importantly, to protect the client. It is our responsibility to do so and CPD sessions are a way of achieving this. By constantly striving to improve our knowledge in this way, we are improving the lives and wellbeing of our clients and the wider community by producing ethical, viable and safe proposals. We pride ourselves on effective client briefing and management through the design and construction process; from the initial conversation and brief, through the planning process and onwards towards technical design, construction and handover. If a subject is raised and we aren’t certain of the answer, we have a duty to the client to consult appropriate specialist advice. This may be with respect to any technological developments, market trends or safety advancements within the ever-evolving industry. Once we have sought our own clarification and advice, it is for us to implement this information and guidance within the project, thus enabling a safe, rigorous and successful building for our client.

The RIBA Core Curriculum is a good starting point for Architects to seek out information. More expertise sought equates to more knowledge gained. The result is better architecture and maximum client protection. It is for these reasons that CPD has been, continues to be, and will remain a critical part of the profession.

This blog post has been written by Dan, one of our architectural assistants. Dan's childhood inquisitiveness of the spaces we inhabit led him to pursue a career in architecture. You can read more about Dan here.


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