DT: Is it a resource issue for you guys, as a practice, to be part of this, in terms of running and organising it?
HL: We are keen to do that. There's a small amount of the grant which is supporting that, but it's not going to cover what we put in. But we are always thinking about how we're using the resources that we have in a responsible way. And this seems like a worthy use of that time.
HL: …So no, I don't think it's a problem. I mean, I'm saying that now, we’re not stuck in it yet, are we? (laughs)
It might become an enormous thing if we’ve got so much interest and trying to pair that with practice, but so far it feels manageable. We've set out that we think that we can involve 150 people across the 21 practices on the London Practice Forum so we think we can manage that number of transactions. We’ll see what it goes to from here, I guess!
DT: Why do you think architecture is such a bad performer in this milieu? In terms of BAME backgrounds. I mean it's a big question, obviously.
HL: It is a really big question, isn’t it? I think that you probably couldn't narrow it down to just one thing, could you?
HL: But there is a sort of…I don't know if it is too controversial to say…I don’t think it is too controversial to say but there's a sort of elitist feel about it, isn’t there? It's a profession that has several barriers to get through to get to be an actual architect. And you have to be pretty committed to do that. And if at each point along that way you're facing bias, then I don't think we should be surprised at the end result of that. And so I suppose that's what this programme was trying to do; is just make sure that from 16 to 24 is where the programme is aimed at. And at start-ups and new businesses; that we’re trying to lower those thresholds, whether you're at school thinking about the built environment, or whether you're at University thinking about whether you should end up doing your Part 2, or whether you've qualified and you're thinking about whether you should start your business. That at each of those levels we’re trying to lower those barriers and help people over the barriers that remain.
DT: What's your experience as an employer? Are you surprised at the low level of applicants you get for jobs at We Made That from this sort of background?
HL: I don't know if that's true, actually. So we are currently… I mean I don't have the data; it may be true. But we have currently got a survey that we put out to anybody who applies to us at anytime, whether we are recruiting or not, because we get general, speculative applications, to try and make sure that we have evidence of what is the range of diversity of people that apply to us, what is the range of diversity of people that we interview, and what is the range of diversity of people that we employ. So then we would be able to say definitively: oh, we are not getting people in that are diverse, for example. But we need to really pin that down and be more specific about it.
I think that, as far as I understand it, diversity becomes less diverse as you move through architecture, but I think there is still an issue of communication of architecture and built environment professionals at a school level, all the way through. But we are also supportive of the Accelerate Programme which is supported by Open House. I think that's trying to tackle that issue as well. So I think there probably is a lack of diversity of people that are applying but we are looking to see if that is true. And then those barriers get cumulatively impactful as you move through the profession.
DT: Yeah. Well, good on you for doing it. I think it's a really great thing. What are your main hopes for it in, say, the next year to five years?
HL: I hope that these first 150 people have a really fantastic time, and even whether they choose to go into architecture or not that they feel that they've had good value from it. We've got Afterparti involved for the alumni programme of new architecture writers from the Architecture Foundation helping us with evaluation and reflection and knowledge-sharing. So I hope that it becomes, first of all, valuable for those people; that’s number one. But also that it sets a model that we can carry forward together, either with the London Practice Forum or wider across the profession to ultimately mean that architecture is as diverse as the cities and places that we are designing for. Obviously, we are one tiny part of that bigger picture, but I think that by being deliberate and careful in the way that we are approaching it, and reflecting on the process that we will learn lessons that could have a bigger impact than just this programme.
DT: Brilliant. That's really great. Thank you very much your time, and well done again. Good luck with it!
HL: Cheers! Thanks very much! Good to talk to you.
DT: And you. See you soon.
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