It is important to discuss your career ambitions with your employer as early as possible. Your employer may be able to offer support, in way of fee funding or employee mentorship schemes, as well as arranging suitable work based experiences.
Many employers wish to retain their staff, particularly if they have been with the firm for a lengthy period, and it is fairly common for course fees to be paid for. If your practice does pay your course fees, you will be expected to stay at the firm for a minimum period after you complete your course. If you decide to leave before the time restriction is up, you will be expected to refund some or all of your fees. It is worth discussing any arrangement of this kind with a HR professional before you make a commitment.
Medium and large sized practices may have internal mentoring schemes, which would be highly beneficial when progressing through Part 3. There will probably be many questions that you will have throughout the process, and having a workplace based mentor would quickly bring you answers to most of your questions. Workplace based mentor schemes may also have access to a wide range of materials specific to the type of projects you have worked on. This can be particularly useful if you need to review contracts and other professional material.
You will need to ensure you have enough experience across the various RIBA Stages of Work to satisfy the ARB Criteria. If you look back across your PEDR sheets and find that you are too heavily involved at Stage 2, you may be able to spend some more time at a different stage if you raise this with your Director.