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Manchester student networking event

RIBA North West supported final year students from Manchester School of Architecture and the University of Salford to hold a student networking event sponsored by Ibstock Brick on 1 March. In this blog post, organiser Chi Chen (Zoe) Vong tells us about the event.

21 March 2022

The ongoing pandemic has deterred the in-person social interactions of all aspects of life. As architecture students who used to enjoy in-person reviews and studios where people can connect and exchange advice face-to-face, interacting with classmates through a screen was not how I envisioned my university life to be. Many students were worried about getting a job after graduation due to the lack of networking events as online networking is just a mélange of muted microphones and closed cameras. Therefore, when COVID restrictions were lifted and in-person interactions once again resurfaced, I knew that organising a networking event for students to re-establish connections would be vital.

Being part of the [Moment]um Collective and the current lead of the BLM student collective at Manchester School of Architecture has put me into contact with Laura Rushton (Project Coordinator at RIBA North West) and Mal Kowalska (School Representative for Architecture and Design at the University of Salford). When RIBA North West reached out to North West Architecture Schools to provide funding for student-led events, Mal and I seized the opportunity to set up a student networking event which enables in-person communication between current architecture students and architects or professionals in the industry.

Manchester student networking event © Noor Faour

RIBA North West was immensely supportive of our ideas and several meetings were set up to discuss catering, venues, tickets and architectural firm invitations. We aimed to invite around 100 guests (students and architects) but were a little worried if this number would be too ambitious for the first in-person networking event post pandemic. As the networking event was created to accommodate our students, we asked students for firm recommendations. The enthusiastic suggestions were then directed to RIBA North West, who helped us invite the architects. The staff at Manchester School of Architecture helped with booking the venue at our Faculty of Arts building.

To our surprise, all 100 tickets were sold in less than 24 hours and many others signed up to be on the waiting list. The enthusiasm of those involved filled us with excitement for the coming event.

Manchester student networking event © Noor Faour

There were many renowned firms in attendance, including Feilden Clegg Bradley Studio, Calderpeel Architects, Hawkins\Brown, OMI Architects, 5Plus Architects, Simpson Haugh, MCAU Architects and Cartwright Pickard. They provided invaluable advice about applying to jobs and working in the industry as well as general guidance for our students. Students who were disadvantaged due to the pandemic were able to gain personal insights from established professionals in the industry. We received great feedback and people were thrilled to be able to attend an in-person networking event after two years of online meetings. All the constructive comments made us feel honoured to be able to host such a well-received event. Furthermore, the success of the networking event has potentially paved the path for it to be hosted annually.

We would like to express our greatest gratitude to Ibstock Brick for sponsoring the event, as well as RIBA North West, the University of Salford, Manchester School of Architecture, the invited architecture firms, our volunteers, and everyone who helped us along the way. Thank you.

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