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Unemployment levels fall as firms face skills shortage

Architecture firms are facing a shortage of skilled candidates in key areas as the number of unemployed architects fell to its lowest level since before the Credit Crunch

New figures revealed by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) show the number of architects claiming jobseekers allowance in May fell by almost 50 per cent year-on-year to 310 people - down from 615 in May 2013 and from the peak of 1,995 seeking work in August 2009. 

Observers claimed employment is up thanks to booming global demand for British architects combined with a rapid upturn in the UK economy and warned of a shortage of job candidates with experience of delivering projects.

Adrian Dobson, RIBA director of practice said that architects responding to the institute’s monthly RIBA Future Trends survey have reported workloads around 10 per cent above 2013 levels.

He said: ‘We are hearing of shortages of BIM literate staff with project delivery experience, and these candidates are increasingly in demand.

‘Overseas work now accounts for 16 per cent of UK RIBA chartered practice income and some of the pick-up in activity is clearly related to a recovery in some key overseas markets.’

Paul Chappell, manager at RIBA Appointments – which is part of the RIBA’s commercial arm RIBA Enterprises - said the jobs upturn has come on suddenly.

‘It is certainly becoming harder to find the right candidates for all the new roles,’ he said.  

‘There are probably around three times the number of jobs coming in compared to this time last year. Practices which do hire need people straight away and haven’t yet realised that they aren’t the only ones who are looking for staff.’

Other comments:

Lindsay Urqhart-Turton, founder of architectural recruitment firm Bespoke Careers:
‘It is as busy if not busier than it was in 2007. We’ve seen an upturn in a need architects in residential, commercial and in particular rail in recent months.
‘In the past few years more architects have been working on feasibility studies and front-end work, the emphasis has been on winning work than on delivery. However since the turn of the year this has changed completely and those with delivery experience are in short supply.’

Colin Usher, director at John McCall Architects:
‘A large number of people who graduated during the recession left the industry simply because they couldn’t find work.
‘Things have picked up in the last 12-months or so, certainly in the north, and the current wave of recently graduated architects will have gained year out experience so they should have the skillset required.
‘The danger for practices outside of the capital is if London starts to overheat it will attract a large number of graduates, reducing options and access to the best talent.’

Dave Madden, director of Mustard:
‘Architects have found themselves in the position where they are not able to call the shots anymore, they are answerable to the developer and there is a degree of fire-fighting going on.
‘We’ve been seeing for the last six months that getting the appropriate skill-set into a practice has become significantly more difficult. It is not that people don’t want the job, it is because they are already in one.
‘Their salaries are back to where they were if not better. If it is a sideways move then a lot of people aren’t interested. Architecture practices are finding it tough to deliver appropriate designs to clients not only in the appropriate time but also of significant quality.’

Peter Murray, managing director at Stanton Williams:
‘Architects have to be very sensible about projects they take on, wherever possible you have to be honest with what you can do. No-one should promise things which they can’t deliver.
‘If they haven’t got a team in place they have to say to clients ‘hang on a minute’ and wait until they are ready.’

Kieron Najada, director of architecture recruitment at Adrem:
‘Practices are using temps much more like temps these days, with the turnaround much quicker than it was pre-2008.
‘Before temporary contractors may be kept on for a while, but now the average is around three months. We have seen demand double with most practices growing and expanding at the minute, with lots of roles coming up but less people available as the market has slowly hoovered them up.’

Readers' comments (3)

  • John Kellett

    There is probably not a skills shortage as such. There is a shortage of architects willing to accept salaries lower in real terms than they were eight years ago! Many architect jobs are being advertised at less than those of technicians. How many architects have accepted higher paying posts as 'technicians' and 'project/design managers' I wonder?

    Until the profession values itself we will continue to be undervalued by our clients and therefore unwilling to increase salaries appropriately and fees to a profitable level.

    Like CAD before, BIM is making us more productive, but instead of benefitting the profession is being bullied into producing more work for the same unprofitable fee. Daft.

    Unsuitable or offensive?

  • Until the UK Government 'Protect the Function of Architect' architects will continue to be undercut on fees by the unqualified and others! The public cannot expect a professional level of service on the current levels of architects fees.

    Why does UK Government allow unqualified people to design buildings putting the public at risk? UK Government need to follow Ireland and protect the British public.

    Unsuitable or offensive?

  • The modern built environment requires skilled and experienced professionals. Unlike the 'Great Architect' human Architects are not omnipotent. Calling for ring fenced protection for 'the sole right to design' is a case of using 'old world' tactics instead of meeting the challenge by raising the standards and the profile of the profession.

    The Old Architect is dead!, long live the Architect. The new Architect must be like the Renaissance man or woman and look for new ways to express their skills within an internet driven world. This, and only this, will ensure the survival of the Profession and not some fear based protection strategy. This will also mean that people will return and stay and fees will improve. Just my opinion!

    Unsuitable or offensive?

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