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North East hit by 'dire shortage of architects'

An architectural brain drain is starving the North East of design talent, it has emerged this week.

And, according to practices and recruitment agencies, there is no end in sight to the severe shortage of architects in the area.

This skills famine is even leading firms to look overseas to fill their vacancies.

Joe Gellert, finance director with Newcastle-based practice Waring and Netts, said: 'We are finding it difficult. There are very few architects and technicians available.

'Certainly in the north generally there is a dire shortage of architects.

He added: 'It is a serious problem and it has been going on for around two years. To overcome it we are looking to recruit in Europe.

'In fact in the last few days we have interviewed someone who has come, via America, from Germany.'

Gellert is blaming recessions in the early 1990s - which caused a lot of staff to move south - and a reinvigorated local building boom for the shortages.

He said: 'In a sense we are victims of our own good fortunes. The North East is stacked out with work and it has been eight years since the last recession.'

'We hope the situation will improve but, personally, I can't see it at the moment.'

In the past few years the practice has grown from about 30 staff to more than 80 employees.

'The agencies are certainly aware of it. The mere fact that there are so many agencies is testimony to the need of practices having to use them to get staff.

Kevin Kinnon of Protect Human Resourcing, in Newcastle, has also witnessed first hand the problem of finding people to fill an increasing number of vacancies. He said: 'Of all our divisions, in architecture, which has always been the most candidate led, there are more jobs than applicants to fill them.'

Kinnon, who admitted his agency had dozens and dozens of architectural vacancies, added: 'There is a great dearth of good quality people. The North East construction industry is fairly buoyant with projects, such as Schools for the Future, and because its extremely busy the talent is being soaked up.'

by Richard Waite

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