Friday 29 January 2016

Returning to architecture after a career break

It can seem daunting to contemplate a return to architecture after a prolonged period away. My focus in this post is on where to acquire the knowledge and skills you should think about on returning, and where to find help and CPD (Continuing Professional Development).

We find that people coming back after extended absences often need help in two areas:  building their self-belief and confidence, and updating their technical, statutory and regulatory knowledge.

As Head of CPD at the RIBA, I have a strong belief that CPD and lifelong learning will not only keep you up to date, they can change your life and offer personal and professional benefits.  And thus, using CPD tactically to prepare for your return can make the landing smoother.

The skills specific to the practice of architecture you might need to brush up on are around new legislation (for example the new CDM Regulations), regulatory updates, planning law and planning changes, new forms of contracts, procurement, changes to the building regulations and new ways of working (digital design and construction, including Building Information Modelling)

Keep in the know by reading trade magazines, especially the free online versions: AJ, Building, Building Design, Construction News and Blueprint. A couple of hours a month reading RIBA Journal can keep you up to date on a wide range of issues. Websites I consider essential are Dezeen and Arch Daily. Don’t miss essential information on the RIBA and NBS websites: sign up for weekly bulletins, or bookmark the websites. Take part in the discussion on the RIBA’s Facebook, Twitter and Linked In pages.

There is a great deal you can do online, like doing a MOOC. What in heck is a MOOC? It’s a Massive Open Online Course – always free, generally offered by a university, and with thousands of courses available. I myself did a MOOC on music theory through the Edinburgh College of Art. I was one of 70,000 people around the world enrolled. The best MOOCs – like the one I did – have live chat and collaboration integrated. Start here with Coursera

However, MOOCs aside, I really recommend that whenever possible, you get together with other people for information sharing, learning, support, help and just enjoyable socialising.

For something more formal, the RIBA’s core CPD seminar (core seminar programme) offers seminars in 13 cities throughout 2016 (two venues in London, at the RIBA in Portland Place and at the Herman Miller showroom in Aldwych). The ten seminars relate to the ten core required CPD topics, with a current, topical take on what you need to know. Our free CPD Roadshows are relevant and valuable learning and free to attend.

The November GuerrillaTactics small practice conference and Speed Mentoring event are essential, and includes a day of CPD.

And finally, your regional RIBA office, and RIBA branches are essential points of contact, events, CPD, networking and more.

A few other industry groups for networking, events and mentoring: Chicks with Bricks  is a proactive network connecting young women in the construction industry to their female peers and role models. 

The National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC) encourages  individuals to pursue, establish and sustain successful careers in the construction industry. They organise regular events across the regions focusing on networking, education, site visits, skills and mentoring. 

And don't forget your local Chamber of Commerce for networking, training and more.

The RIBA team is here to help and advice. I can be personally contacted at or on 020 7307 3697. I can hopefully either help you myself, or refer you to one of my expert colleagues here in London or at one of our 11 regional offices.

Written by Joni Tyler, Head of CPD, RIBA

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