A next generation technical course is helping a Sunderland teenager to build a career in architecture, cutting his teeth with a leading city practice.
Building Design (Northern) Ltd – BDN – has welcomed Sunderland College student, Declan Urwin, on a 45-day placement as part of a new T Level qualification that teams technical experience with classroom learning, to prepare young people for industry.
Seventeen-year-old Declan, who lives in Washington, is studying a T Level course in Design, Surveying and Planning at Sunderland College. Alongside his studies, Declan has joined Sunderland-based architect and engineering firm BDN two days a week for a 23-week placement.
T Levels are a new vocational qualification, offered as an alternative to A-Levels, to 16-19 year-olds, with a focus on developing industry specific employability skills. Students are required to carry out an in-depth 45-day workplace placement, designed to put their technical knowledge and skills into action.
Declan has been working closely with BDN’s architectural department, shadowing architects on live projects, and has been supporting with transformational plans for the former Stables building at Sheepfolds, a project it was announced the firm was leading, having submitted a planning application for its conversion into a vibrant new leisure destination for Sunderland.
The BDN team is also supporting Declan to develop his knowledge of specialist software REVIT, which is used by architects to work up true-to-life plans.
Declan, who started his course in September 2021, said: “I am really enjoying my placement with BDN. It has been very insightful to see concepts taught in college translated into an industry setting.
“A real benefit of starting my placement has been learning how an architect and engineering practice operates. Being taught by industry experts has also been extremely helpful in showcasing what it’s like to work in architecture. In future, I definitely want to pursue a career in architecture, and my placement at BDN has well and truly cemented my decision.”
Victoria Moyse, Work Experience and Placement Lead at Education Partnership North East, of which Sunderland College is a part, said: “We have amazing employer partners such as Building Design Northern who have worked closely with us to create engaging placement opportunities for students like Declan, which enable the T level qualifications to bring to life the learning our students are gaining in college.
“We have been extremely proud of, and delighted with, the progress of our T Level students and industry placements this academic year. Students from all five of our T Level pathways have begun their placements in industry within sectors including Adult Nursing, Education and Childcare, Construction and Digital.”
Richard Marsden, managing director of BDN, said: “It has been a pleasure to welcome Declan to BDN. He has already shown an exceptional attitude and ambition and is clearly very focused on building a career in architecture. He has impressed us all.”
T Levels are a 2-year qualification that you can do as an alternative to A levels, other post-16 courses or an apprenticeship.
They bring classroom learning and an extended industry placement together on a course designed with businesses and employers across construction, digital, health, science and education. Courses in digital infrastructure, business administration and engineering and manufacturing will be launching in 2022.
Declan’s T Level placement was arranged as part of BDN’s social value commitments to Sunderland City Council, something the local authority asks all suppliers to deliver against. BDN was the highest rank architect practice appointed to the council’s framework of professional services providers in 2021 and committed to provide a range of opportunities to local people, including providing placements to young people from the city to enable them to build the skills needed to eventually enter the profession.
Building Design Northern (BDN) has partnered with Sunderland College to deliver an on-site hard hat tour as part of their ongoing T Level partnership.
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Our achievement rates are well above the national average.
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(*Top college nationally for BTECs, Pearson 2019)
100% of our HND and HNC students progressed to employment or further study.
(*Destination data, academic year 2016/17, HNC 19+)
We have recently invested £50 million in our facilities.