National Apprenticeship Week UK 5-11 February

At Chapman Taylor we encourage and support a learning culture and Apprenticeships that combine working with studying, to gain skills and knowledge in a working environment.

Returning to University full-time to become fully qualified is a significant commitment so the Architecture Apprenticeship route can be another way to become a qualified Architect and at Chapman Taylor we support the Level 7 Architect Apprenticeship scheme.

National Apprenticeship Week takes place from 5 to 11 February 2024 in the UK. It brings together everyone passionate about apprenticeships to celebrate the value, benefits, and opportunities that they bring.

In doing this we proudly showcase two Chapman Taylor employees currently undertaking their apprenticeship with us and we took a moment to ask them about their experiences in choosing this learning route.

Carys McVicar and Benjamin Millsom are Apprentices at Chapman Taylor and they are both studying at the University of Cambridge.

Carys McVicar

Tell us about yourself?

I grew up in a seaside village near Swansea, Wales. Life there had a much slower pace, and I spent most of my time outdoors – building bonfires, kayaking, swimming, and camping. Wales is known for its beautiful art and music, and during my school days, my passion was firmly directed towards painting and creative subjects, sometimes at the expense of other classes. Both my aunty and grandpa were artists, and while the artistic path appealed to me, I could see the challenges of pursuing a career in the industry.

After a week's work experience at Chapman Taylor, I found myself intrigued by the craft and decided to apply to Kent School of Architecture.

I hope more students consider this path, as I believe it offers a more inclusive route toward qualification than the traditional method.

Why is the apprenticeship route the best for you?

Whilst I was at Kent, I gained a profound understanding of the artistry and intricacies of architecture. However, upon joining Chapman Taylor, I realised there was still much to learn about the practical application of my skills in the field. Consequently, deciding to leave for a full-time master’s program felt like putting a pause on my growth as a more well-rounded designer.

Despite recognising the value of a master's course, considering my enjoyable experience and progress at Chapman Taylor, I felt that the sacrifice in expenses and time taken away from acquiring real-world skills led me to explore an apprenticeship. This decision allowed me to obtain the benefits of both, bridging the gap between theoretical knowledge and practical application. Fortunately, I was aware of the apprenticeship opportunity with Cambridge, as one of my tutors at Kent, Timothy Brittin-Catlin, was the convenor of the course. I had confidence that he would provide an excellent standard of learning.

Tell us a bit about your learning journey?

To the best of my knowledge, the Apprenticeship course at Cambridge operates differently from most apprenticeships I've encountered. Instead of attending university once a week, it follows a block structure, with approximately 10 days spent in Cambridge's college accommodation every three months. During each residential period, you collaborate on a module of work within a small group, presenting to your cohort, external guests, and architects on the final day. For me, this format allows focused dedication to university studies for 10 days, avoiding the challenge of juggling both work and studies within a short timeframe. This structure also means you have access to the student resources, workshop, studio, and libraries and means I’ve built stronger connections with the other students which in turn adds value to my learning as each student shares their unique skills and experiences of practice.

While the 10-day schedule is hectic, it is really engaging. The initial three years cover Part II and include master classes, lectures, supervisions, seminars, and studio work. Notably, guest lecturers, such as award-winning architects Proctor and Matthews lead our last module on masterplanning, but the type of modules vary.

Following these three years, apprentices have 6-12 months to complete the End Point Assessment and Part III of our training, eliminating the need to re-apply for the Part III course. Balancing work and university requires time to master, but minus a few late nights, I've managed to maintain a healthy balance and I’m beginning to see how the knowledge gained at university positively influences my professional work.

Tell us about the design environment at Chapman Taylor, how has this inspired you?

Working within the concept design team at Chapman Taylor has been an exciting and engaging experience for me, the skillset of my team never fails to inspire me, and I feel we are constantly sharing knowledge to help each other develop. Despite being in the early stages of my career, I appreciate the inclusive atmosphere that values everyone's input equally, lifting confidence and encouraging a free exchange of ideas.

The concept design team's dedication to creating timeless and sustainable architecture has shaped my own values as a designer and I know it will be with me throughout the rest of my career.

Benjamin Millsom

Tell us about yourself?

I grew up in a small town in East Anglia, one of those places that’s pretty much in the middle of nowhere. At school, I was pretty good at Maths and Science but I much preferred creative subjects like Art and Music. Seeing as you need quite a lot more hand-eye coordination (among other things) than I will ever possess to become an F1 driver, I thought that Architecture was a pretty good middle ground for what I could do and that I enjoyed.

Having experienced people around who take the time to show you how everything fits together makes such a difference.

Why is the Apprenticeship route the best for you?

I signed up for the apprenticeship as the world was coming out the first wave of COVID lockdowns. At the time, I was pretty much evenly split between the full-time MA course at Greenwich and the Apprenticeship that I eventually took with Cambridge. What swayed me though was the open day I (virtually) attended with the course leader, Timothy Brittin-Catlin. He had written a book on several of the topics in our first module – and he spoke about architecture with knowledge and passion.

On a more pragmatic level, I looked at the Apprenticeship from the perspective of offering pretty much exactly what I could get from a full-time course, with the added benefits of three years of experience and a salary along the way.

Tell us a bit about your learning journey?

The course I’ve ended up on is a pretty clever reinterpretation of the Apprenticeship system. Instead of taking the traditional one day a week for study, these are saved up and taken in blocks of two weeks (what we call “intensives”). For these, everybody in the cohort gets the chance to go and stay at one of the University colleges in Cambridge and utilise the university resources while the full-time students are away.

The modules themselves are largely group work, with five of the seven different projects completed in small teams. This is a blessing as you get to work with people from a range of practices and as a result, with a range of skill sets. As the course progresses, we work through modules that largely mirror the RIBA work stages – from Brief Creation in the first year to the delivery of a technically-resolved and highly sustainable urban building at the end of the second year. I was lucky enough to be part of the second-year group to ever take the course, so have had the opportunity to work with nearly everyone in my very small year of intake. You do learn a lot in working with such a diverse group of people.

What has been the most rewarding aspect of your apprenticeship so far?

Honestly, it has probably been the time when I’ve been able to take the things we’ve learned on the course and apply them to the ‘real world’ of work. Our fourth module, technical façade design, taught me a lot about the thermal performance and U-values of building elements. Being able to then take this and go into live project meetings with specialist designers makes such a difference in how you view your work and the contributions you can make to the team.

Tell us about the design environment at Chapman Taylor, how has this inspired you?

I’m lucky to be working with a driven, skilled, and diverse team, and I work with people across Chapman Taylor's three UK studios. This has introduced me to a much wider range of expertise across the Chapman Taylor group, and as a result, it has meant that I have never really stopped learning.

Design delivery seemed impenetrable at the start, but with the right mentoring things start to fall into place and you can see how everything comes together to make a building work.

Chapman Taylor is proud to be able to support this route to qualification by allowing students to work and learn amongst our highly skilled Architects and work environment. We have developed a commitment to learning this way and a route to help those looking to study via an apprenticeship. We hope to go on supporting students via apprenticeship for years to come.Kester Withams – Head of People & Culture.

For more information about National Apprenticeship Week go to

#skillsforlife #chapmantaylor #naw2024 #nationalapprenticeshipweek

Kester Withams

Head of People and Culture, UK

As Head of People and Culture in the UK, Kester offers strategic human resources support at a senior level. He understands how to work in tandem with creative individuals and the importance of good communication across the business.

Kester has significant cross-industry experience with a specific focus on management capability, change management and coaching & leadership.

Kester provides expert people advice and support across our three UK Studios.

Areas of expertise:
Talent Management / Organisational Development / Coaching & Leadership

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