The Bartlett


Building Experience in Architecture: CV Tips and Opportunities for Young People

By Lettie McKie

If you’re thinking about or are in the process of applying to study architecture at university, work experience is likely to be on your mind. Luckily, in London today there are a lot of opportunities for young people to find placements, attend workshops and get involved in design projects. Even better, a lot of these opportunities are fully funded so you can apply to do them without having to pay. 

I’m Lettie and I’m a postgraduate student in architectural history studying here at The Bartlett. Work experience is something I’m thinking a lot about too, because as a career changer I need to build up my CV alongside my studies. I’ve been volunteering for a charity, the 20th Century Society as I want to work in architectural heritage. This means helping to save historic buildings from demolition, so the volunteer work I’m doing now, reading planning applications and researching the history of buildings to support listing applications, will complement my academic work, making me more job ready upon graduating. 

For general advice about a pursuing a career in architecture check out Blueprint For All who have produced a helpful guidance pack. Through studying architecture at university, you’ll get to explore your own academic interests and develop creatively, honing your design, drawing and digital skills along the way. However what studying won’t necessarily give you is the practical application of those skills in the real world. One way you can get such complementary practical experience is through a placement in a practice. 

All the opportunities mentioned in this post are accessible but do check the eligibility criteria, commitment involved and deadlines when applying. 

Image provided by NLA Learning: Scale Rule Project, 2018 

POOR Collective offer an amazing 12-month internship opportunity for those aged 18-22 years old. Imagine how much easier your transition to university will be if you have built up your knowledge and experience through this programme beforehand or even alongside your first year of studies.  Contribute to a range of real architecture projects and gain hands-on experience visiting construction sites. They’re looking for passionate young people who want to help shape the future of cities in the UK. The deadline is 18th July so check-it out and apply soon so you don’t miss out. 

Similarly, if you’re aged 16-24 and based in one of their target boroughs check out Re-Set-Go who offer 1-6 week placements in a variety of London practices, for which you would be paid London Living wage and travel expenses.

Personally, I get a lot of inspiration and knowledge from following architects I admire online, such as Eyesore and Resolve, who take a community-oriented approach to design.  You could even approach architecture practices you like directly for a placement. For the best chance at a response be confident but professional and impress them with a well-designed CV that shows off your unique talents. 

Image provided by Open City: Accelerate 

Another tip is to read as much as you can! I enjoy Afterparti zine, produced by a collective of graduates from New Architecture Writers, a free programme for young Black, Asian and minority ethnic design critics. Such critical architectural writing confronts big problems in our industry – such as a lack of diversity and the need for environmentally sustainable design - and I’ve learnt so much more through engaging with it. On graduating, an understanding of these issues will be crucial, because it will mean that I will be a stronger advocate for a sustainable and equitable workplace. 

Did you know there are also some incredible opportunities out there to design and build your own architectural projects in London? The Peoples’ Pavilion are currently on the lookout for young designers from East London aged 14-19yrs. You don’t have to any experience to get involved in this project and better yet there is a £2000 prize up for grabs. 

Image provided by Open City: Accelerate 





If you’d like to attend regular design workshops UCL’s Widening Participation team run a Summer School each year which you can apply to attend. In my previous career I also ran summer schools for young people. I can tell you they are a fantastic way to immerse yourself in architecture during your summer break, meet other young people who love the subject, be taught by inspiring built environment professionals, create new work for your portfolio and have loads of fun in the process. 

The Open City Accelerate programme is one of the best opportunities around for young people applying for architecture school. Aimed at sixth-form students this programme runs through Sept-May each year and will give all the tools you need to succeed, including one-to-one mentoring and guidance on your applications. Even better, you will learn about the social role of architects and develop your critical-thinking skills. 

Image provided by Open City: Accelerate 





About the author

I’m Lettie, a post graduate student on the Architectural History MA at The Bartlett School of Architecture. I studied History of Art as an undergraduate and have been working in Museum and Galleries as a Learning Manager for the last decade. Through this I've met and taught many young Londoners about art, architecture and related creative skills and careers. I've come back to studying after this time spent in the workforce because I am fascinated by architectural heritage and the way it continues to influence our future built environment. 

Image of Lettie Mckie - Student Ambassador