Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust X INVOLVED Magazine

An insight into the trust, tips on how to continue career development during the pandemic, and ways to get involved

Built Environment Participation Officer, SLCT alumni and Part One Architecture graduate Maia Ojerinde-Ardalla speaks to fellow alumni Sarah Osei about the importance of the trust, exciting initiatives, and advice for young people.

So explain The Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust to us?

The Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust, since its inception, one of our key goals essentially is inclusivity within all spaces, communities and the built environment. We believe that talent is everywhere but the opportunity is not and the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust works to create a fairer and more inclusive society in which everyone can succeed regardless of ethnicity or background. We have a series of high impact programs for schools and communities in the built environment. We provide inspiration, opportunities and support to talented young people from disadvantaged backgrounds, enabling them to succeed. We work with innovative organisations and businesses to address the disparity of opportunities, so everyone’s talents, skills and perspectives are valued. We empower communities across the UK to tackle disadvantages and discrimination for long term systemic change. We don’t just believe in a fair and equitable future, we are making it happen.

Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust Alumni: Quincy Haynes, Shreeya Radia and Ayanna Blair-Ford, designers of the 2019 Mile 18 Marker.

What is the importance of the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust in today’s society, especially in this current climate?

I think the pandemic has shone a light on a lot of organisations that exist within the built environment, communities and schools and the existing inequalities within them. These organisations struggle to stay afloat, in these trying times. It becomes even harder for students of BAME backgrounds and disadvantaged backgrounds to get support, to get placements, to get involved in their spaces and to get their voices heard and so I think in this time more than ever, it is extremely important to be able to offer opportunities to our beneficiaries to be able to get them involved in the spaces that they fill.

A programme that SLCT is known for is the mentoring scheme, what kind of conversations take place in the one-to-one sessions? Can you tell our readers more about the process of volunteering to become a mentor? Is this a long term mentoring relationship or more of a one-off conversation? 

So our one-to-one mentoring scheme traditionally would be where we approach a practice or they sometimes approach us, [practices] offer up a group of mentors with various degrees of skills, such as assistants, directors or associates [to the alumni on the programme]. We would then bring alumni to the practices, have everyone introduced and enrol in a year-long scheme where they either meet biweekly or biannually depending on their availability. 

Following the pandemic, we’ve had to transform the way we allow students to be offered these opportunities. So we have offered digital one-to-one mentoring. It’s the same format as before, you offer about monthly or by-weekly guidance and support to students but it’s all placed digitally over zoom. One thing we do enjoy about this actually, is that students who live in remote places in the UK don’t have to travel into practice to be able to receive the guidance, they can do it from the safety of their own home which is really great for a year-long scheme. Students get knowledge of the industry that they might not have had in their undergraduate or postgraduate education. It just adds to bridging that gap, in terms of architectural understanding for students who might not within their immediate circle know or have someone who has an understanding of the architectural profession. It offers that level of professional support. Once the year passes, if both mentor and mentee are really happy with their professional relationship, they can still continue that network. It’s grown into some great relationships which have allowed for opportunities back and forth to be had. I was mentored at Squires and Partners who are part of the #StickWithIt campaign. My mentor was brilliant and he ended up having much more support with me as the years continued. It’s one of my favourite initiatives in the Building Futures Programme. 

As conversations about diversity in profession and especially in architectural education are more apparent than ever, how is SLCT informing young people in secondary school and sixth form? 

We have our pathway into profession programme which is for 13 to 15-year-olds. It exposes them to industries they traditionally might not have an understanding of. It is a chance for organisations and partners to expose some of the ways to get into a particular field. To make some of the teenagers aware of these industries and to understand the process to get into them. For example, if you’re a 14-year-old and interested in architecture but you’re not entirely sure what it entails or how it works, someone from a partner practice can come into your school and let you know exactly how their work is conducted. You can then start to develop a sense of direction. This could be through the A-level route, understanding the different university options you might have or engaging with the industry outside of education.  So I think the pathway into profession programme is really crucial for students in the formative years of their decision making [and to creating a diverse talent pool in the architecture profession].

Perfect subway into my next question, why is it important for employees to recruit diverse talent in the architectural profession?

Specifically, if you’re building anything public, community-based or residential, in fact even in some private establishments. You need to have a firm understanding of where you’re putting things and the changes you’re making. Similarly, with our connecting people and places project which focus on heritage in the BAME communities, a lot of the spaces we see, we [people of BAME background] generated. New or infill builds come from a place of understanding the existing parameters of the people who already work, live, travel and commute in these areas. These are established areas for a lot of BAME communities and the importance of diversity in architecture is that when architects and planners approach these sites and changes, ultimately they have more faces and people who will have a personal understanding of what’s being built. Furthermore, for a lot of housing schemes in low-income areas, [architects] need an understanding of how people exist and live in these spaces. A diverse architecture practice approaching a project like this will create a far more successful outcome than a blindly led [team] lacking the understanding of the culture that’s already there.

How can recent graduates continue career development whilst searching for work in practice during the pandemic?

‘…find out what’s happening in the industry, where properties are getting developed and the competitions/bids that are going on amongst architectural practices’

So with the #StickWithIt campaign, we had with Squire and Partners – we had our first talk on October 14th and that was also joined by another one of our partnerships which were Mark Nagle from Urban Recruitment. In that talk, we covered essentially everything that you could do to enrich your already talent outside of work. From fulfilling personal briefs, developing research projects, getting together with a group of peers that also might be out of work to submitting competition proposals and producing your own competition. A lot of competitions that are out now are around how the pandemic is changing design. You could also redesign a past studio project with the pandemic in mind. I think a lot of those personal design briefs are really important. As well as a digital platform, find out what’s happening in the industry, where properties are getting developed and the competitions/bids that are going on amongst architectural practices. Keep on top with the industry standards, keep on top of how the industry is evolving in this time and promote on a digital platform that you may have on LinkedIn, Twitter or Instagram and encourage others to do the same. Get into the habit of consistently promoting your ideas and work. 

Alternatively, our #BeMoreInclusive programme with Urban Recruitment offers diverse talent within a practice. Working with the recruitment you’ll get a firm understanding of what it might mean to be able to rework your portfolio, redo your CV and Urban recruitment in themselves offer a very comprehensive support system for some of our beneficiaries and alumni to be able to get into those very formative roles at very high achieving practices. Ranging from Level 7 apprenticeships to Level 6, should you be a sixth former and then of course part 1 and 2 placements. 

It might even be that some of the more creative things that you’d never necessarily have had the time to do before you could go in and explore now that you have a bit more time on your hands. Essentially it’s not all doom and gloom and some of the time I think the pressure of achieving a part 1 or 2 placement can show our students there are so many enriching ways in which you can get involved in what we are doing even at the trust. Our building futures programme is very much geared to the understanding of the post-pandemic world. A number of our talks, following our first talk with Squire and Partners, towards the end of the year, are going to continue to feed into the knowledge of what it means to digitally promote [yourself], to apply to practices now and to prepare a portfolio for specific practices. We are working on creating talks and workshops following the ones we’ve done with Squire.

Let’s delve further, whilst everything is very much online for now, how can graduates, students and employers network?

So a lot of directors and associates have their eye on social media now, particularly when they are working at home. They can communicate and stay updated on developments within the built environment. I would say capitalise on that, really sell your Instagram accounts, post your work, tag practices your work is inspired by and also LinkedIn, contribute to conversations. Even just seeing your thoughts or something similar to INVOLVED Mag, being able to put your ideas about the industry out there and having visibility so that when practices know who to look for, they’ve already seen your face, name and some of your work before and that’s really important. 

LinkedIn and Instagram are great social tools to be able to promote your work because a lot of practices are now on Instagram because they allow other people within the built environment to stay updated in what they do. Just that outward visibility online will really help other practices understand what it is that you might be doing. It is really good as well to get involved in these platforms where the conversations are being had such as the New Architecture Writers, Migrants Bureau, Black Females in Architecture and Muslim Women in Architecture. They are platforms that premiere and promote both the beneficiaries within them and to anyone outside who wants to understand what these organisations might do, more. I think Black Female Architects is a great platform for black women who want to explore architecture but feel comfortable having those conversations about what it might mean to be a black woman in architecture. Even the Building Futures Programme similarly, we have our own alumni page in which we share a lot of opportunities on that page. We also do a lot of showcasing and spotlighting on our credible and great alumni. 

Could you perhaps explain the #BeMoreInclusive initiative to us? 

So our #BeMoreInclusive partnership with Urban Recruitment works to create a diverse and more inclusive environment within architecture and built environment fields. At the moment specialising in architecture and Interior design. It’s open to any graduate or postgraduate from the Building Futures beneficiary or anyone who fits the requirements of being able to support BAME and disadvantaged students. We are hoping to have 20 beneficiaries involved in the program. So when a candidate is hired the employer will be asked to donate £1,000 to the SLCT. This donation will provide funding to help more young people from under-represented backgrounds enter, and stay in [and continue their] architecture career.

Their goal is to raise over £20,000 for the SLCT in the first 12 months of the partnership. So that’s 20 new placements in the first 12 months! Of course the more numbers we get the better, and I think some of the success stories as of late have been great for us. We were able to see practices really engage and collaborate with Urban recruitment on this and offering placements amongst diverse students. So if any students are interested in getting involved, the #BeMoreInclusive partnership is available to be seen at both on our diverse recruitment page on our website and on Their website is consistently being updated. So should you also not see a role that fits your profile yet, do contact Mark Nagle from Urban to make sure that you can still enrol into the initiative.

Urban Recruitment operations director Mark Nagle with SLCT Alumni.

There are still a number of 2019 graduates, waiting to get their ‘foot in the door’, do you have any tips for them?

‘That’s my recommendation for anyone struggling right now, keep talking about your passions because sometimes inspiration is in the form of being able to share your interest with other people’

Both of us are from the 2019 cohort, and I’ve even had peers from different universities who have communicated this to me. The market essentially is changing and it was sort of a double whammy of Brexit, then Covid-19 which sandwiched itself to some of the most unfortunate situations. I think there’s also space to diversify what it is that you might want to do. It might be enrolling in construction, interior design or policy and planning. Do apply for those roles. They will be able to enhance some of the things you do in your part 1 and part 2 studies/placements going forward. Freelancing work is always great. Upskilling of any sort, are you good at rendering? Offering your services to people and rendering their projects. The more ways you get involved, the more enriched you’re gonna become. Projects at home that you want to document, are you possibly changing anything around your house, are you doing a renovation, could you possibly contribute to any community builds, or community regeneration projects locally that could offer some of your spare time. Is there anything local you can do? Could you rework an existing building you’re really fond of, could you do a model of the existing building you’re really fond of in your spare time.

A lot of [2019] students right now are working jobs that they might not necessarily want to do but they need to pay their bills and that’s a very realistic situation to have but then it’s the asking of your spare time. To not exhaust yourself, what can you do that’s also enjoyable but can also then enrich your skills database? Feed into your projects with a couple of your peers who might live locally to you and weren’t able to get part 1 placements and submit projects to practices or to competitions. Then you have all of this post-graduate work that you can show off. It simply could be about working once a week on it. 

Even in the building futures programme, we are trying to really turn out a lot of positive work so you guys don’t essentially give up. The architects who are offering mentoring schemes right now probably went through the 2008 recession and understand how difficult it might have been to peddle through these motions during these tough times. Having those conversations were really inspiring for me when I was in my second year slowly coming out [of part 1 education]. At the same time, I was still inspired to get involved in creative work and so those kinds of opportunities that you might have missed before, you can engage in them now. So for any student who is sitting at home, who has not been able to secure a part 1 placement and is really losing some of the faith, you have to remember why you wanted to get into architecture in the first place. That’s my recommendation for anyone struggling right now, keep talking about your passions because sometimes inspiration is in the form of being able to share your interest with other people.

Have you guys seen the architectural profession change since the SLCT was set up? 

‘They were not practices with one or two BAME members, they were almost 100% BAME, they were led by BAME people and it was really interesting to be able to see all of this talent come together in one place’

I’ve been at the trust since 2018 and one thing I’ve noticed is that the SLCT alumni are everywhere. Even the fact that I’m able to have this conversation with you and we are both SLCT alumni. The fact that a lot of people, that support and go back to support our programme, they are faces I’ve seen before. So the simple fact of the matter is that no matter what area I walk through in the built environment, I always come across SLCT alumni and that’s a positive experience for me. It’s important to be able to see people who look like you, who have come from the same background as you in these spaces. It is important because it makes you believe that you can do it yourself. For so long, directors and associates of practices in the UK were not of BAME heritage at all and it was very hard to be able to see those goals being achieved for yourself if you necessarily could see anyone that fits within your demographic in those places. So I think there has been absolute progress in terms of having these spaces filled with great diverse talent and being able to see it.

All the showcasing we do, for example, Brick by Brick housing for a better world competition in collaboration with Brick By Brick in croydon was significant because the entrants shortlisted were all of BAME heritage and were BAME-led practices. They were not practices with one or two BAME members, they were almost 100% BAME, they were led by BAME people and it was really interesting to be able to see all of this talent come together in one place. For me, it’s just being able to see it and to have this conversation with you – knowing you from Ravensbourne, knowing that you’re part of the trust and sort of seeing those relationships trickle throughout the built environment. That’s important for me and that’s a success that I’ve seen at SLCT.

I know you also help and provide resources for other pathways outside of the built environment, can you tell us about that?

Our exposure to law and finance are within our pathway to profession programme for our 13-15-year-old beneficiaries. However, we do have several toolkits that are available to read [on our website], which would still apply to someone who is quite interested in getting involved in different industries. Alternatively, within the built environment network, you have a number of beneficiaries who have gone on to do some really creative stuff outside of beneficiaries work. I know as architecture students, an architecture degree requires so many talents to actually complete the course, it’s not just about design, it’s about time management, writing, pitching, marketing, branding and graphic design. There’s so much within it and sometimes it’s about harkening back to those skills you have used and finding a way to repurpose them in different industries as well. So it might be that you love Law but you’re not sure how to make it work with architecture, well did you ever have to take a look at some planning policies or city policies for a studio project you were working on. Is there something in that industry that you were interested in? Maybe you would like to work for the Greater London Authority (GLA) or the council? So there are essentially ways to spill out into different industries coming from architecture but of course, some of the toolkits that we have for our younger beneficiaries are available to be of use to some of our older beneficiaries too.

Another amazing scheme is the SLCT Bursary awards, will that be open for next year?

For the students who received it for 2019/20, we were able to secure funds for them to continue their studies and it has been really useful for them. Whether they are travelling in and out of uni, architecture is wildly expensive, the materials, the models that didn’t work and you’ve got to do it three more times. The software you use, for example, rhino – if you don’t have a student membership sometimes you have to cough it up from your own pocket and then again all of the sorts of various support you need, sometimes a lot the funding and support is needed because of the inability to work because you’re working too much on your academic projects that you can’t cover some of the extra expense. So I know the bursary has been helpful in that regard. If you’re able to enrol in the building futures programme, sometime next year we will be able to release more information about the annual bursary that starts in 2021. I suggest anyone involved in the building futures programme should keep an eye out for sometime early next year when we will be releasing information on that!

Any exciting news or upcoming projects that you want our readers at INVOLVED to know about? 

Within the built environment, we do have our talk series. These are honestly one of my favourite things to be to put together. It’s practices coming together on topics you guys want the answers to. So similar to the Squire and Partners talk it was a lot of students having questions about what to do in the pandemic, that they might not get very visible or clear cut answers from their lecturers. So it’s really nice to have architects that work industry feedback on these. We have talks available on the apprenticeship scheme should you be looking for a different route. We have talks on programme selection, a lot of students are at home studying/distance learning and they want to be able to upskill and choose a new programme. How do you do that? What do you pick?

We have more workshops on digital branding and marketing which is an extremely important tool for architecture students in this day and age. We’ve got portfolio workshops, workshops with talking to part 1s and 2s already in the industry and asking their opinions about what it means to work and how they are getting on, which is something personally I think is never really spoken about. 

Alternatively, updates within the #BeMoreInclusive programme, we are excited to release more opportunities. So if you’re not involved in the #BeMoreInclusive partnership with urban please do join, because you’ll be the first ones to be made aware of any new opportunities such as workshops, apprenticeships and volunteering roles will all get released on the building futures programme this coming academic year, so stay tuned for that.

In the trust itself, we have a few exciting things going on now. We have the #ChangeMakers campaign. We are working with three brilliant people within the community, we are working with Mwila Mulenshi, founder of Success Look Like You (SLLY), spoken word poet Luke AG and Joel Dunn, founder of Paradigm. So I suggest everyone keep in touch and get involved in anything you might see.

And of course, how do we become part of the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust, if we’re not already?

‘If I need talent I know where it is and it’s in the SLCT alumni and beneficiaries.’

Our building futures programme is a branch on our website. There is a form on there to download, you can send it over to the programmes team and we will process your application. The moment you send it over to us, you are essentially enrolled. You will get exposed to all the opportunities that we send via email or directly to alumni. It’s workshops, resources, mentoring, varied opportunities, placements and spotlighting. So the moment you enrol, essentially anything that comes your way, I suggest taking advantage of it. Even if it is some of the things you might not necessarily feel like would work for you or might not be as interested in, some of the opportunities that we get there are far more enriching than they appear at face value. Get involved in all the talks, get involved in all the workshops. Keep being involved in the community, find out other alumni that have gone to certain talks and based on the questions they asked you may find out that you have the same interest. The moment you’re involved, the moment your one of the family and beneficiary. I love seeing applications coming, I love being able to read the applications, read about everyone’s different paths to getting to architecture and similarly I love working with you all. It’s extremely important to be able to have this large group of talents that I can quickly refer to at any point. If I need talent I know where it is and it’s in the SLCT alumni and beneficiaries.  

Also, if anyone from the building futures programme, has any questions or missed out any opportunities in the past couple of months please get in touch with Maia over at trust and she’ll be happy to answer any of your questions.

For more info, visit the website: and of course, follow the trust on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn too!