RGU alumnus Geoff Shearer graduated a few years ago with a BSc (Hons) in Architectural Technology. After finding his passion at university, he now works as a Construction Design and Management/Health and Safety Consultant. He shares how the diverse modules on the course allowed him to take his career in an unexpected direction and how he maintains strong links with RGU to allow more people to build their dream career.
Why did you choose to study Architectural Technology at RGU?
When choosing subjects at school, I always selected the ones that most appealed to me, creating a mix that maybe didn’t always appear to have a clear end goal. However, my thoughts were that this would lead to a profession that I would be passionate about. Something that could be a career, not simply a job.
Combining my favourite subjects such as product design, woodworking and computing, it seemed as if a career in construction design was the perfect next step. A degree in Architectural Technology seemed like a good fit.
At the time, there were various universities offering the course. However, it was immediately clear that the Scott Sutherland School of Architecture and Built Environment at RGU was by far the best option. The feedback from graduates and the school’s links with the industry played a big role in my decision. On the one hand, the school provides a lot of opportunities to develop a variety of designs for interesting scenarios, using new and up to date software. On the other hand, it also allows for a high chance of employment once qualified.
Can you tell us more about your experience on the course?
Upon arriving at RGU, it quickly became obvious that designing for construction is not just about design. There are many things you need to know when it comes to a construction project.
Midway through my studies, the school moved into great new facilities in the Sir Ian Wood Building. Access to large new design studios and computing labs was brilliant. However, it was becoming clear that a career in design was not actually what I really wanted to do.
On the surface this appeared to be an issue, was I really doing the right degree for me? Did I need to change my path? However, the Architectural Technology course at RGU was also providing me with a great foundation in other key areas such as management, economics, building pathology and current and emerging technologies. It certainly wasn’t just about design.
Studying these other subjects within the course allowed me to find my real passion, management in the built environment, whilst still providing exposure to developing design standards and technologies.
This wide variety of modules, delivered by hands-on lecturers, provided me with a great set of transferrable skills. They have since become invaluable in my work.
How has your degree in Architectural Technology helped your career?
RGU has great links with industry, especially in construction. As part of the Architectural Technology course, you have the chance to undertake a student placement. Thanks to the affiliation of one of my lecturers, a local company called Safety Scotland Ltd offered me a job. A job which 7 years later is developing into a great career with a passionate team of professionals.
In my role as a Construction Design and Management (CDM)/Health and Safety Consultant, I am not working as an Architectural Technologist. However, the wide range of skills which I developed during my studies at RGU have proved extremely beneficial. Although design is not my direct responsibility, the ability to read and understand technical drawings is important. It has allowed me to better understand the projects where I provide support to architects, engineers and other design professionals.
Construction isn’t just theory though. To bring designs to life, it requires the dedication of many trades with their own invaluable skills. Part of my role is to support some of these individuals. I ensure that they meet all their legal duties and safeguard the health and safety of not only themselves, but anyone who could be affected by their work. The understanding of a wide range of construction methods and technologies, which I gained whilst studying at RGU, has been a great help when it comes to assisting them plan and monitor their work, and carry out any necessary training.
Construction is a fast-paced industry which offers so many amazing opportunities. A course like Architectural Technology provides an exciting opening to various aspects of the industry.
The work ethic instilled in me by RGU has helped me to achieve professional qualifications in both occupational health and safety and environmental management.
What have been some career highlights so far?
A year after graduation, I won the “Young Construction Professional of the Year” award at the North East Trade Awards. Whilst this was due to the work carried out during my career, I have no doubt that winning it would not have been possible without the knowledge I gained at RGU.
The Architectural Technology course laid the groundwork of everything I have achieved professionally in the last 7 years.
Since graduating, I have also had the chance to maintain a link with RGU. I have played a small part in maintaining their close relationship with the industry by delivering a lecture on CDM. I also worked alongside the university during the delivery of the “Build Your Future” challenges to local primary schools. This opportunity was particularly important to me. Whilst I was at school and making my choices on subjects, construction was not portrayed as an attractive career. However, the industry offers a wide range of roles and exciting possibilities. It needs fresh blood and ideas to help counteract the skills shortage which is anticipated in the near future. For the right people, construction can and will offer a rewarding career.
The fact that RGU are keen to help inspire future generations shows that they not only care about future students, but also care about the future of the industries which they support.
What are the next steps in your career?
Just now, I am working towards becoming a Chartered Member of the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH). Chartered membership shows that you look to achieve and maintain the highest professional standard for your work. This is something that, in my experience, RGU wholeheartedly support.
The lecturers that I had were not interested in simply generating graduates. They aimed to provide the industry with the next set of professionals to move the construction industry forward. I aim to follow their lead through continued personal development, supporting the schools to encourage the next generation, and maintaining a link with RGU to assist wherever I can.
For a career of great opportunities in the vibrant industry of construction, I would not hesitate to recommend The Scott Sutherland School of Architecture and Built Environment at RGU as the ideal starting point.