Student Mentoring in Lockdown

Providing insight into the changing 'real world' of architecture during the 'new normal'

Oh, very young
What will you leave us this time
You’re only dancing on this earth for a short while…

Oh, very young
What will you leave us this time.

A few lines from probably my favourite (Yosef) Cat Stevens song. Just a bit before my time I would add. Worth a listening to if you don’t know his work, although you’re bound to recognise some of his songs. His folky-pop, combined with messages of existential spirituality could be considered especially apt for our present situation with the pandemic.

At DKA we have always taken an interest in supporting young people, be it through work experience placements, attending school industry days or university mentoring and ‘year out’ work placements. Taking part is always a rewarding experience. At a deeper level it reminds us there is more to what we do than just work. Nurturing the next generation and transfer of knowledge, skill and experience helps us become well rounded human beings.

Over the last few years, as a practice we’ve been pleased to participate in the local RIBA mentoring programme. This offers undergraduates an opportunity to get an insight into what the ‘real world’ of architectural practice looks like, before they embark on their own stint of work placements. This normally takes place through some informal mentoring sessions where we invite a small group of students into the office.

This year presented obvious challenges. Amongst the transition of switching to new patterns of working and the inevitable pressures that the pandemic has brought along with it, it would have been easy to excuse our usual participation this year. But, I’m glad we stuck with it and as ever the involvement is one of mutual benefit.

Moving the event online remained strangely familiar but different at the same time. Evidently, we missed out on the opportunity to meet and greet in the office face to face. Also, the chance to get out to ‘the coalface’ on site was not something we could contemplate. The wonders of technology though, meant that we had students ‘zooming’ in from as far afield as Bahrain and China because they had been unable to return to Bath! We were still able to introduce different members of the DKA team and discuss their varying roles and cover all the bases we would normally expect to discuss at these sessions.

Architect Ben Wu-Holmes delivering online student mentoring

The problem our social distancing presents is one that could be seen as generationally divisive but for reasons that are understandable. So, it has been nice to have the opportunity to find new ways where we can continue engaging with the students, despite the challenges.

A big thank you to those involved – we look forward to hopefully continuing the sessions in the future.

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