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National Apprenticeship Week

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By Sara Hurley – 9th February 2022

Now in its 15th year, National Apprenticeship Week 2022 is taking place between 7th – 13th February. This year’s theme is #buildthefuture, something that we know a thing or two about!

Corstorphine & Wright recently recruited our first architect degree apprentice, Sara Hurley, who is based in our Leeds studio and studying with Northumbria University. Sara began her apprenticeship with Corstorphine & Wright in September 2021.

Read on to discover more about her apprenticeship journey.

I have always held an interest in architecture and the built environment. However the biggest inspiration to enter the industry was the opportunity to use my creativity and strengths to positively impact people lives.

During my Part One experience in practice, I really enjoyed learning on the job and working within a creative team. Therefore, the Architect Degree Apprenticeship route appealed to me as I could continue to grow in practice and academic learning simultaneously. For Corstorphine & Wright, taking on a degree apprentice for the first time is a great opportunity for the group to endorse this new pathway in line with the Architects Registration Boards’s (ARB) new vision for the way future architects are trained.

In order to start the Level 7 architecture degree apprenticeship, I completed an undergraduate degree in Architecture and did my Part 1. As I could see an exciting career at Corstorphine & Wright and I had their support on this new qualification route, I applied to university to complete my studies. This involved submitting a skills and behaviors assessment against the Institute for Apprenticeship criteria and proof of previous education – overall an easy process to follow. Once this was cleared, my position on the course was confirmed, Corstorphine & Wright, Northumbria University and I completed an Apprenticeship Commitment and I was ready to start!

The transferable skills I gain through university and work are invaluable! By developing both skill sets at the same time, I have the opportunity to develop across the full breadth of criteria, from studying architectural research and theory to working on problem solving in real-life projects. My role in the Practice has also maintained a sense of belonging to a studio culture and given me the right balance of on-the-job and academic learning.

The apprenticeship gives me access to endless ideas and resources to learn which gives me a well-rounded experience within the industry. With University fees at an all-time high in the UK the apprenticeship has great financial and social benefits in for students and sponsor employer. Sponsor practices can pay fees whilst the student continues to earn. This makes architecture a more accessible career and reaching a more diverse pool of talent. For me, the apprenticeship route has bridged the gap between university and work-based learning, giving me a more comprehensive understanding of architecture.

By Corstorphine & Wright sponsoring me I have access to a wide range of live projects in a variety of sectors and the opportunity to tap into the vast experience within the group. This is a great platform to get creative inspiration and knowledge to take into my work. Corstorphine & Wright give me the confidence to grow in the group and at university. The supportive mentors in the Leeds Studio always ensure I have everything I need to complete my apprenticeship to my fullest potential.

Whilst working in practice, I complete the qualification through committing 20% of my time to the university course. Typically, my working week includes Mondays dedicated to my academic learning, working through design projects, exploring innovative academic research and theory. Then the rest of the week is in the studio assisting on a variety of exciting projects across the group. Currently I am working on a large residential development in Essex, giving me an insight into the complexities of designing for a community – which has been a great resource for developing a brief at university.

I hope to complete my Part 2 & 3 through the apprenticeship and continue to progress with Corstorphine & Wright from an Architectural Assistant to a fully qualified Architect. Through my continued role in practice, I hope to gain further knowledge and skills through assisting on projects from inception to completion, which I can take into my work at university as well as my further career.. My ambition is to specialise in a sector and continue my career growth and learning after my apprenticeship.

For those looking to take an apprenticeship route, it has definitely been a positive experience for me.  I work with a great team on exciting projects every day, which enhances my journey through the apprenticeship programme. I would encourage anyone to follow suit. With the first cohort of students now registering to the ARB I believe this route opens the profession up to those who might not consider the traditional route. The option to choose an apprenticeship in Architecture will enhance the talent and career progression in the profession and make it accessible for everyone.

Sara has been a superb addition to our team. Her enthusiasm and drive has been fantastic. She has been involved in multiple projects at all RIBA stages. With Corstorphine & Wright’s broad sector base and involvement from design to delivery we have been able to give Sara exposure to a huge range of experience. She can now start to consider the sort of projects and work that she enjoys and begin to focus on developing her career with Corstorphine & Wright while completing her course.

Andy Brown


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