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Architects battle for staff as workloads and wages rise

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Practices are facing increasing competition for staff as workloads continue to increase, according to both recruitment specialists and the RIBA

The latest RIBA Future Trends Survey shows the amount of new work is still rising with the overall value of projects in progress in July ten per cent above the same period in 2013.

The insitute’s research shows that workloads in London, the South East and Scotland are particularly healthy. Meanwhile recruitment firms have reported that architects’ wages are finally starting to increase with salaries up by £2,000 since the start of the year (see also AJ 08.05.14).

Adrian Dobson, RIBA director of practice, said: ‘The outlook for architects’ services continues to improve steadily, with many practices reporting a significant increase in the levels of enquiries they are receiving. However, our practices are still reporting significant competitive pressure on fees and profit margins on projects remain very tight.

Practices are having difficulty recruiting staff with specific skill sets

‘We are seeing the first evidence of practices having difficulty recruiting staff with specific skill sets, particularly in areas experiencing stronger economic growth such as London and the South East and north east Scotland.’

According to Dave Madden from specialist recruitment firm Mustard the jump in demand is allowing architects wanting a move to pick and choose between the best offers.

‘It is going crackers out there,’ he said.

‘While clients are starting to understand that they need to pay a little more, we are now finding that candidates are using the buoyant market to get ‘counter offers’ to stay in their current employment. We recently had a candidate accepting a £10,000 raise in pay to stay at his current firm.’

Alison Rea, architecture associate at recruitment firm Bespoke Careers agreed.

She said: ‘Since January it has got incredibly busy again. There is definitely a shortage in skills - across the board, from the big wigs to one or two man bands, firms are looking for staff. Companies we haven’t heard from for three years are coming back.

She added: ‘At the beginning of the year a new part II could expect an average wage of around £25,000. But it has now gone up to around £27,000 as a starting salary. Across the board salaries look to have gone up by around £1,000 to £2,000 per year.’

According to Bespoke’s salary guide for architects in London, which was updated in August, a graduate with three-five years experience can now command a wage between £33,000 and £39,000 compared to £29,000 and £38,000 at the start of the year, a rise of 13 per cent at basic level. A graduate can expect a salary of between £26,000-£30,000 compared to £24,000- £28,000 in January.

The RIBA claims the burgeoning workloads are being driven by growth in the private housing and commercial sectors. The workloads index for private housing work remains strong at +29, while the figure for the commercial sector was +14. The index for the number of practices expecting workloads to increase fell from +34 to +28.

Practices in the Wales and West are the most cautious about future prospects, despite seeing signs of recovery and reporting a workload index of +49 in June, this has dropped to just +12 this month.

The future workloads index for London currently stands at +38, while Scottish practices were reporting a figure of +33.

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