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2012 key trends: Recruitment

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These are lean times, but there are still opportunities for people with good skills and contact networks, says Lindsay Urquhart

Following a very busy summer, with lots of practices offering architects permanent roles in London, the market has slowed down over the last quarter and there’s a definite swing towards temporary hire.

Speaking as someone who runs a recruitment agency, I’m confident that the pattern we’ve seen in the last quarter of 2011 will continue. The uncertainty in Europe appears to have knocked confidence and practices are waiting to see what happens.

Redundancies abating

The difference between now and, say, October 2008 is that we aren’t seeing practices making people redundant. With a couple of exceptions, the number of redundancies has been on a normal scale.

This is in part due to the fact that the majority of studios are already pretty lean, but also because there is still work around. It may be piecemeal and the fees may be obscenely low but, if you want it enough, you can get work. So, there is still a market for talented people, albeit weighted towards short-term contracts.

The divide between London and the regions is likely to continue; London practices with international work, particularly in Russia, China and parts of the Middle East continue to fare well, while those outside the capital, especially those relying on government work, will continue to struggle.

Practices in London with a strong presence in workplace, private residential, high-end retail and hotels will continue to grow, as will the established, design-focused offices that do high-end commercial work in the city.

Over the past couple of years our senior appointments consultant, Laura Mason, has been kept busy by practices that are strategically hiring senior people with strong networks in sectors that remain buoyant. These kinds of people are in high demand because their established contacts can be utilised to leverage a space in the target market.

For similar reasons, our creative support team has been busy hiring marketing and business development people over the past 12 months. I see no reason for either of these trends to abate.

To BIM or not to BIM

This is a big topic for 2012. Government chief construction advisor Paul Morrell’s commitment to ‘fully collaborative BIM by 2016’ will mean BIM managers, BIM co-ordinators and those with strong Revit and Bentley Architecture skills will continue to be in high demand.

As practices come to realise that their ability to win government work will be hugely affected by their ability to deliver projects using BIM, this demand will continue to increase. 

In a market where there is already a shortage of skilled users, my advice to those coming out of college or people with very little industry experience and struggling to find employment would be: get on a Revit training course.

Candidates who get a good result on the Revit test we do as part of our screening process generally receive a number of job offers in a short space of time, while their contemporaries, even those with very good AutoCAD and MicroStation test results, find themselves with fewer. As a result, the former are commanding higher salaries – 10-15 per cent higher, on average.

Salaries for people with BIM skills have escalated in the past year, while the rest of the profession has remained pretty static.

Again, I see this trend continuing, with a distinct split between those who have run projects utilising all of the capabilities of BIM (big BIM) and, to a lesser degree, those that merely use it as a modelling tool (little BIM).

So, 2012: better than 2008. Nowhere near as good as 2007.

Lindsay Urquhart founded recruitment agency Bespoke in 2004 after working for a number of years with practices including Wilkinson Eyre, Denton Corker Marshall and Pringle Brandon. Since 2009 Bespoke has opened offices in Sydney, Melbourne and Hong Kong and now has the largest global reach of any architectural recruitment firm. All offices are run by trained architects and designers. Bespoke specialises in architecture, creative admin support, interiors, graphics, landscape and senior appointments

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