First apprentice for Cotswold architects


A Cotswold architectural practice  has taken on its first apprentice.

Lauren Gower has joined Nailsworth-based Austin Design Works and is working towards her Architecture Level 7 Degree Apprenticeship at the University of the West of England (UWE).

The 24-year-old, who lives in Gloucester, will spend two days a week studying at UWE and the rest of her time at Austin Design Works (ADW), working on real-time projects with her mentor, Architect and practice Director Matt Austin.

Over the next four years, Lauren will complete her Part II and III qualifications at the Bristol campus while honing her skills in architectural design and construction, client contact and the operational side of practice at ADW.

As part of her UWE course, she will be given access to cutting-edge research, including the latest thinking on sustainable buildings, which she can put into practice with her client work.

Lauren completed her Part I at Oxford Brooks after moving to the UK from Zimbabwe as a 10-year-old.

Architecture runs in the Gower family, who were forced to flee the Mugabe regime. While her father was a sugar cane farmer, her mother worked as an architectural technician.

Together, they designed and built their home.

“It’s such a fantastic opportunity for me to be part of the team at Austin Design Works while I’m studying at UWE,” says Lauren.

“I love ADW’s collaborative approach. I’m always able to talk about any problems I’m facing with projects, solving them together, moving them forward.”

Lauren’s passion is for the sustainable design and eco-friendly buildings for which ADW is famous.

Recent projects include Oakfield House, a strikingly modern, larch-clad eco home in the Stroud valleys which is built to Passivhaus principles.

The practice’s most famous building is the £30m Swinhay House, near Wotton-under-Edge, built for industrialist Sir David McMurtry and used in the BBC’s adaptation of Sherlock.

“Everyone at ADW is forward-thinking,” Lauren adds.

“They’re passionate about educating clients with new ways of thinking about design, always really striving to consider the environment before building work starts. And I love that.

“Matt is a fantastic mentor. He came with me to my induction day and he’s totally involved in my training. I’m learning so much here.”

Lauren is currently working on a site in Belbroughton, near Stourbridge, designing a state-of-the-art, multi-generational family home for a marine engineer. The landscape, where thousands of trees will be planted, is being reclaimed from an old landfill site.

“It’s working on projects like this which make the job so interesting,” says Lauren. “I love the Cotswolds, and working for ADW is a privilege.”

Matt Austin added: “Lauren’s a great asset to the team and she’s doing really well.

“We were keen to get involved with UWE’s new Degree Apprenticeship. It gives employers the ability to upskill their workforce, giving them the tools and the confidence to really contribute to the practice and ensuring buy-in from the apprentice.

“It’s a fantastic opportunity for Lauren, and we’re thrilled to be part of that.”

As part of Lauren’s course, ADW will be given access to UWE’s academic community and wider business network.

It is currently ranked sixth in the UK for student satisfaction for its architectural courses in The Guardian’s University League Tables 2020.

Andrew Bourne is Associate Head of Department, Architecture and Built Environment at UWE.

He welcomed the roll-out of Degree Apprenticeships, which he said gave employees and architectural assistants a much longer relationship and helped with staff attraction and retention, particularly for firms outside London.

“The academic rigour of these courses is exactly the same as the traditional Part II and Part III,” he added.

“But they also build-in shed loads of professional experience.

“Students like Lauren will typically spend 20% of their time in education and the rest working on projects for real clients, with all the complexity and rigour that goes with that.

“Apprenticeships are about being able to encourage participation in architectural education where fees aren’t the major factor, with a demographic that struggles to get into the profession.

“They widen the cultural diversity of practice staff. They’re for all society and they’re relatively inexpensive for employers and we welcome that.”

Lauren is one of six degree apprentices in a cohort of 40 architectural students. A mix of full and part-time students, they share modules and field work.

“It’s great to see how much Lauren is getting out of the course, and her practice work,” added Andrew.