Youth Programme Partnership: The City Centre, New London Architecture and BLP Insurance


  • Date: 25/01/2018
Youth Programme Partnership: The City Centre, New London Architecture and BLP Insurance

Since July 2016 The City Centre has welcomed over 300 young people aged 14-19yrs to our Built Environment careers workshops, generously supported by BLP Insurance.

The Learning programme is a joint initiative between New London Architecture and The City Centre. We run a series of workshops, walks and tours for schools and young people to introduce them to London’s Built Environment.

The programme was originally started as a way to combat the lack of information about construction related careers in schools. There are many barriers to teachers arranging trips for pupils in secondary schools from timetabling restrictions to exam constraints. To make sure more young people hear inspiring and positive messages about the construction industry we established a programme to engage young people in extracurricular activities. We do this because we know that the industry is facing a growing skills gap with not enough young people wishing to enter the profession.

"The real ticking ‘time bomb’ is that of the industry’s workforce size and demographic. Based purely on existing workforce age and current levels of new entrant attraction, we could see a 20-25% decline in the available labour force within a decade." - Mark Farmer’s review of the UK Construction Labour Model (2016)

Our programmes aim to help change this by offering free opportunities for students to learn about career choices they may not have been aware of before. With an initial interest in art, architecture, design and STEM these young people are given an insight into many disciplines in the built environment from structural engineering to surveying which they might not yet have realised are a good fit for their talents. We introduce them to professionals working in a huge range of jobs pooled from NLA’s professional membership who volunteer on our programmes.

We do this because we know that the more times a young person meets professionals from different sectors the better.

"Statistically positive relationships exist between the number of employer contacts that a young person between 14-19yrs experiences and their confidence and progression towards future career goals. Students who have 4 or more employer activities while at school are 5 times less likely to become NEET (not in Education, Employment or Training) and earn on average 16% more." - It’s Who you Meet (2012). Dr Anthony Mann, Education and Employers Taskforce

We give students the chance to learn through practical experience attending Saturday workshops based on practical skills including CAD, model-making and architectural drawing. We give the students the chance to
visit construction sites, attend architectural tours (including sketching and photography), and respond creatively to design and STEM challenges inspired by real developments.

We also run special projects such as our week-long Engineering Academy in August 2017 which was made possible by additional sponsorship from BLP Insurance. We were pleased that the majority of attendees on this course were female. We know that two of these students have since started engineering courses at university in September 2017.

"Thank you for the whole of last week. I've learnt a lot of things that I never knew before and it has helped expand my knowledge of engineering as a whole." - Zulakha, participant on the Engineering Academy 2017 now studying a foundation engineering course at City University London

We also ran a live Pop-Up construction project for London Festival of Architecture 2017. In this project 15 young Londoners got the chance to design and build their own structure for a public site, Paternoster Square in the City of London. Through this rare opportunity the young participants learnt about the entire construction process from initial design ideas to final build day working with architects AHMM, engineers Arup and contractors Knight Harwood to complete the project. We would like to see this type of project become an annual feature of our programme.

Since July 2016 our young people have come from 19 London schools. As the programme is free to attend the only barrier to attendance is time commitment so we ensure sessions happen during weekends and holidays at times that suit them.

We recruit young people through our contacts with teachers in target boroughs where we know there are high levels of deprivation; Tower Hamlets, Hackney, Newham, Camden and Barking and Dagenham. We know that we are reaching young people who would otherwise not have had access to this kind of experience as it is often teachers working in these boroughs who find out about us and encourage their pupils to book.

We know that our pilot work has already made a difference to the aspirations and confidence of the young people who have participated in our programme. From the 2016 cohort of regular attendees on our sessions 6 are now studying a related field at university. 4 students have gained work experience placements at AHMM and 10 students have applied for placements at Broadgate with Sir Robert McAlpine.

In December 2017 we will conduct our annual survey to further understand the impact of our programmes. When asked, many students talk extremely positively about how their experiences of our workshops helped them with university applications and portfolio development.

"The workshops did give me a brilliant insight into the world of architecture. I mentioned them on my personal statement to help with my university application." - Sanjidah, regular participant during 2016. Now studying architecture at Leicester University

In 2018 we plan to build on the success of our pilot programme by introducing more young people to property development and the construction industry via new initiatives including a work experience programme and evening mentoring events at NLA. Our first evening session, a portfolio advice surgery offering one-on-one consultation with architects and university tutors, was attended by 20 students applying for places in September 2018 proving there is an appetite for this kind of event.

In March we will continue this new series with a mini-careers fair for students interested in construction focussed apprenticeships. As our programme grows we aim to become an information point for young people considering careers in the sector.

In everything we do we aim to inspire students about London’s Built Environment, engage them with the incredible variety of careers available within it and empower them to find a voice in their city, fostering a life-long interest in its future.