Could 2019 Be a Bumper Year for Architects Seeking a New Challenge?
Architects’ salaries in the UK could be about to explode. If a report by the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) proves correct, there could be an avalanche of architect jobs advertised in the coming months. If you’re an architect considering your next career move, now is probably the time to sit down with a recruitment professional and discuss your future.
Architect jobs should be among the best paid in the UK, and they used to be. Not any longer. In March 2018, newspapers such as the Daily Express reported ‘bricklayers and plasterers earn MORE than architects’. Thankfully, this sorry state appears set to change.
Salaries React to Supply & Demand
It was Tony Blair's Labour government more than any other that changed the jobs and salaries rule book in the UK. "Education, education, education" is a noble policy, but it caused a seismic shift in aspirations in the UK. In the 1970s and 1980s, around 10% to 15% of school leavers went to university. That number has now exploded to around 50%, as youngsters have signed up to the further education that would lead to higher salaries, better prospects, and improved lifestyle and status.
As the number of young people seeking degrees rose, the number satisfied with vocational studies and apprenticeships sagged. The UK quickly found itself short of other skills - such as brickies, plasterers, scaffolders, plumbers, and the rest. Consequently, architects' salaries shrunk, and bricklayers; salaries rose. According to research by the Federation of Master Builders in 2018, small builders paid brickies an average of £42,034 in 2017. The ONS reported in its occupational earnings report that the median annual salary for architects was £38,228 in the same period. Clearly, this imbalance has been addressed and now there has been a real shift to reflect demand with architects salary more in line with professional expectations and skill sets.
Why Demand for Architects Could Explode
RIBA has warned that migration is vital to the UK architecture. Its research has resulted in a report titled ‘Powered by People: Building a Post-Brexit Immigration System for UK Architecture’, which found that:
• One in four architects working in the UK are non-UK nationals
• 80% of the international architects working in the UK are from the EU
• Half of the international architects surveyed are considering leaving their jobs in the UK because of Brexit.
If this exodus of international architects does happen, the industry could soon be looking to replace 10% of its current architects. Suddenly, the market in architect jobs could become a seller's market, with you, the architect, selling yourself to the opportunity you most desire.
Will EU Architects Replace Leavers
At the end of October 2018, 1,000 leading architects signed a letter to the prime minister putting forward their opinion that Brexit would be devastating for the UK architecture business. Signatories included luminaries such as Norman Foster, Richard Rogers and Sir David Chipperfield. The letter was written because of frustration at the lack of lobbying by the RIBA. For its part, the RIBA has called on the government to end the annual cap on Tier 2 visas for skilled workers. It has also noted that the average starting salary for UK architects is only £28,200 – some way below the £30,000 threshold for a Tier 2 visa.
Demand for Architects Increases Salaries
The burning question for architects who may be considering a move is how much they could boost their salary by making a switch and finding a new architect job with a new employer. This is a difficult question to answer, but there are parallels that we can draw with the IT industry. The Morgan McKinley 2019 Salary Guide has noted how the soaring demand for IT specialists has combined with a shortage of available talent to push up permanent candidate salaries by an average of more than 20%. The increase in salaries for staff switching jobs has been exacerbated by a reduction in EU applicants. The factors that have led to stellar salary rises in the IT sector appear to be replicated in the job market for architects:
• EU architects relocating back to Europe
• Exploding demand for architects to replace lost staff
• With fewer EU architects applying for UK-based positions, partly because of the minimum salary restriction imposed by the government
Brexit is causing some anxiety among architects, but we believe that this is misplaced. There are some outstanding opportunities for architects, both at home and abroad. Our clients include architectural practices, developers, retailers, property consultancies and contractor organisations in the UK and abroad. Whether you are a UK national or EU national looking for a fantastic career move in the UK or overseas, our reach is second to none. Your next challenge, with compensation to match your drive and ability in a market that looks set to take off, could be closer than you think. For a confidential consultation to explore the opportunities available now and prepare for the potential explosion of opportunities approaching, contact the architects recruitment team today.