Gethin Owens, Principal landscape architect, Groundwork Lancashire West & Wigan, believes apprenticeships would round out the skills of landscape architecture students.

    Landscape architecture students on a field trip. Image by Nic Harrison © Landscape Institute

    Gethin Owens, Principal landscape architect, Groundwork Lancashire West & Wigan, believes apprenticeships would round out the skills of landscape architecture students. 

    What do you think the current landscape architecture student enrollment numbers are like, and why?
    “I get the impression that student enrollment numbers at University have been falling over the past few years. I guess is difficult to pinpoint a single reason for this, however I could imagine we are now seeing the results of increased fees, combined with the economic downturn a few years ago, making people consider seriously their options before entering into higher education.”

    “It’s strange because awareness of the profession seems to be higher than ever before, and UK landscape architects are delivering some amazing work domestically and on an international level. Also significant work undertaken by the Landscape Institute, in recent years for example leading on a number of design competitions, and most recently linking with RIBA to undertake the Centenary Square completion, all assist to increase awareness and hopefully inspire more people to enter into the profession.”

    As a practitioner, what do you think should be done for education?

    “I think there’s something around apprenticeships or studentships or a way of involving students more within the practice during their study period. By undertaking an apprenticeship or studentship that maybe linked or sponsored to a practice, would potentially assist the student during their time at university both in professional support, but also financially. The student could work at the practice during the break periods whilst also being linked to the practice following completion of their degree.”

    Why do you think apprenticeships will improve the landscape architecture education process, for both students and practitioners?

    “I believe with an apprenticeship or studentship model it would hopefully benefit the profession as a whole by ensuring students come out of university with both the solid foundation of skills and creative experience to be gained at university. In addition it would provide for a level of exposure to professional practice such that it ensures they can hit the road running (or as a quick as possible) when starting their first job.”

    Often university is touted as somewhere to explore your creativity with ideas projects. Do you think that apprenticeships would take away from this exploitative process?

    “I fully promote creativity and I am massive advocate of the creative process which can sometimes only be gained at university. Sometimes in design the rules need to be broken to find the most novel solution and university allows you to explore this and learn from the resultant experiences. However I also believe when entering into practice you need to be adaptable to different situations/projects/clients/timescales and students need to use these creative skills gained at university in different ways. In this manner apprenticeships or studentships would give a good synthesis of creative development in addition to professional practice experience.”

    What do you think can be done to attract more students to landscape architecture courses?

    “Getting out into schools and colleges to talk about the profession and inspire pupils to become landscape architects is critical to attract more people at the correct time before entering university. The profession plays a leading role on many key issues of today i.e. green infrastructure, water, housing etc. and I believe this can stimulate meaningful engagement and inspiration at all ages.”

    “Trying to tap into the national curriculum and generate discussions about landscape architecture at the earliest stage of someone’s education is fundamental. By bringing ‘Landscape Architecture’ into the classroom, we can hopefully inspire as many young people as possible to enroll at university and be the landscape architects of the future.”

    – Dr. Gethin Owens is a Principal landscape architect at Groundwork Lancashire West & Wigan. He studied a Conversion Landscape Diploma course in 2006-2007 at Gloucester University and PhD and Durham University. 

    This blog is part of a wider series exploring the future of landscape architecture education. The series will post 1- 2 blogs per week, exploring the ideas of students, academics, practitioners and the LI’s new approach to student recruitment. Keep an eye out for new posts with #LIBlog on @TalkLandscape. The series expands on the article ‘Responding to the crisis in landscape education’, in the current issue of the Landscape Journal.

    To join the Education conversation, visit Talking Landscape Education discussions. Also, encourage prospective landscape architects to visit Be A Landscape Architect, a new website promoting the profession.


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