From Student to Architect: Bridging the Gap

By Christine Espinosa-Erlanda

There currently exists a disconnect between the academic field and professional practice. For years academics in this region have been employing traditional ways of teaching but neglecting, to a large extent, core skills, such as critical thinking and problem-solving. The focus has been on the artistic aspects of architecture and producing first rate designers but often overlooking the importance of the soft skills and management capability graduates will need to effectively contribute to the workplace.

The consequences of this approach have generally resulted in educational programmes not aligned with the realities of a professional practice. In college, for example, students are generally given plenty of time to complete their projects within the sanctuary of the curriculum, but they then experience a harsh wake-up call when they move into their first job and must try to deal with tight, often unrealistic, deadlines.

And so, while today’s graduates will probably have amassed a great deal of artistic knowledge and skills, they are less qualified to communicate with stakeholders at different levels or be able to defend their design effectively. Of course, excellence in design is necessary for success, and without it a budding architect will not get far, but it is by no means the only requirement.

As the importance of design has become increasingly recognised, and the planning process has evolved with the introduction of design coding and master planning, the role of young professionals and the requirement for appropriate resources and skills has become increasingly important. A more integrated approach and detailed collaboration with other experts are becoming increasingly necessary in master planning. The requirement to communicate plans with the public and effectively listen to their responses is now regarded as an absolute requirement. Reaching out and collaborating with others does place additional demands on both partners and the core projects themselves but is entirely necessary.

Architects and designers are creative and analytical thinkers who can develop robust solutions to some of the most complex problems facing society today. However, to realise this potential requires a vision and a set of skills that go far beyond what they are currently capable of. Adapting to new situations and acquiring new skills on a rapid timetable is becoming increasingly important due to increased technology usage in the profession.

So, how can we address these issues and bridge the gap between advanced design and management skills?

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