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The kids are all right

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Don’t worry about jobless graduates, says Kieran Long - they’ll be competing with your practice soon enough

Some of the critics in our reviews of 2009’s end-of-year student exhibitions place architecture schools between a rock and a hard place.

During the boom, schools were chastised for not producing oven-ready students, prepared to man the CAD work­stations in pursuit of money.Now, less than a year after the credit crunch hit, schools are criticised for being too pragmatic - as if they should be leading us out of the economic wilderness with visions of the future.

I have seen two exhibitions so far (London Metropolitan and Westminster), and found them to be the most professional, best organised, and most inspiring I have experienced to date. They have an approach that is more robust than the fragile economic cycle, pursuing academic ideas with vigour and applying them to real situations.

There was, of course, a feeling at the shows that the situation was somewhat tragic, with incredible energy and passion spent by students who will soon emerge into a moribund job market. One tutor I met lamented that whereas last year almost his entire unit received job offers before the end of the year, this time barely one of them has.

But this concern, while real, misunderstands a generation of students that is more resourceful than ever before, and far less likely to follow a conventional career path.

In my experience of schools today, students are more likely to be politically motivated, concerned about the environment, working in a multi-disciplinary way and uninterested in fame. They are also more likely than any before them to be interested in the concerns of real people - and increasingly better trained in dealing with them.

So, I suggest that we stop worrying and realise that architectural education prepares students for an entrepreneurial, multi-faceted career with a multitude of possible directions. If I were practising, I would spend less time worrying about the fate of graduates and more time worrying about the competition they will bring to the marketplace in the very near future.

kieran.long@emap.com

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