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The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) Mentoring Scheme is offered to final year students on the BSc Architecture course at the University of Reading.

While enrolled on this programme in her final year, Maria Paolini gained valuable insight into built environment working practices and acquired industry-relevant skills that could be applied to both her day-to-day studies and dissertation. 

The RIBA Mentoring Scheme provides final-year students with the opportunity to gain professional experience by linking up with Architecture graduates currently in practice. Participating in this scheme helps students to enhance their employability, and typically get recommendations from their mentor on LinkedIn.

Personalised experience

At Reading, the mentoring programme is coordinated by the School of Architecture’s very own Professional Studies Advisor (PSA), Sarah Ernst, in partnership with RIBA Berkshire, who ensures students receive the support they need throughout the entire programme. The aim is also to align each student with an area in which they are interested. This is something from which Maria benefitted. 

“My interests are in the humanitarian sector and how we work and design alongside communities. This is an area that I’m also doing my dissertation in. Alongside another student, I was provided a mentor who works as a Director for WR-AP. As well as this I also spoke with a Part 1 Architectural Assistant that works at WR-AP, who had similar interests to me when they were in my position.” 

Matched with a mentor, motivated by similar passions and skills, Maria was able to make productive use of their time together. 

“I was able to find out more about day-to-day life in industry such as how crits [reviews] are done and what it’s like going on-site. I also saw documentation for the entire process of work for one of their buildings and the RIBA plan of work, and how much detail there was. They were also able to offer guidance with CVs, portfolios, and the interview process for Architectural Assistants.” 

Following completion of the Scheme, Maria has kept in contact with her mentor who continues to provide guidance and support.

"Incredible opportunity"

Maria visited the WR-AP offices in London, and was able to see details of previous projects worked on, from residential accommodation to offices in the centre of Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. 

“Going into practice was an incredible opportunity because it was very personal; all of their staff spoke to me. We were really engaged in what they were doing that day, they even took into consideration our thoughts on their work!” 

Maria gained first-hand experience by participating in site visits at a variety of ongoing projects. 

“The site visits were really useful. Here we would take along relevant planning information and see things for ourselves first-hand. Here I was able to learn in more detail what it’s like to be an architect on site, and ensure the construction work was in keeping with WR-AP designs. 

“Learning about the RIBA Plan of Work stages was incredibly beneficial. It’s different to learning from a lecture as you can see their work and ask personal questions such as what materials were being used and how we can apply it to our work.”

Learning outside the classroom

As a student with dyslexia, Maria found that learning outside of the classroom was a “great opportunity to see things differently.” 

“Taking part in this scheme really helped me expand my methods of study and research and also have fun as well. Having work experience in the built environment is really important, as being an architect is about more than just design. It’s about helping communities, helping clients, teaching health and safety, and learning the responsibilities involved in architecture. 

“I learnt a lot from the programme and it’s great for my CV, as participating in the RIBA mentoring scheme is a great first step to showing your intent as an architect.” 

Learn more about our BSc Architecture course

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