Architectural students Skills Survey reveals concerns over pay and practical experience
25 June 2012
A skills survey of architectural students and employers conducted by RIBA Appointments and Newcastle University has shed light on the difference in expectations and experiences of architectural students, seeking to enter the current job market, with those of employers looking to recruit.
The survey, which was carried out between October and December 2011 revealed that salary expectations for Part 1 students exceed what employers reported they would pay by £4,000 or more than 20%, with graduates looking to start on £20,800 as opposed to the £17,000 employers were more likely to offer.
In terms of students' skills and knowledge, more than three quarters (79%) of employers surveyed said graduates lacked the practical skills needed to practice architecture. A problem substantiated by high proportions of both employers (82%) and students (78%) agreeing that students should spend more time learning in practice. Better links between universities and the industry and its employers were identified by students as necessary to achieving this with more help required in relation to securing placements in professional settings.
Progress in this respect is given more urgency by the fact that almost 9 out of 10 of employers surveyed identified relevant experience as a 'very or quite important' attribute when recruiting an architectural student, making it by far the most prominent consideration.
At a time when student applications for architecture courses in 2012 are reportedly 16% down on the previous year*, the Skills Survey also revealed current attitudes towards architectural education.
Interestingly, whilst the majority of students (77%) and employers (70%) agreed that architectural courses could be cheaper, the research found a much lower percentage of students (39%) and employers (37%) believed courses should be shorter.
The survey was completed by 154 employers, mainly from architectural and multi-disciplinary practices, and 83 students from several universities**. Its wide-ranging findings include evidence of the importance attached to different soft and technical skills, students' familiarity with various software packages, as well as an insight into the key areas of knowledge students need to develop most.
The survey found:
- 68% of employers identified design skills as being the main skills that students needed to develop
- Both students (90%) and employers (95%) rated computer drafting as the most important technical skill
- Writing skills and buildings surveys were perceived as significantly more important technical skills by employers (than students) with specification writing ranked by employers as the skill students needed to develop most (61%)
- Most employers (83%) expected students to have good skills in AutoCAD but had significantly less expectancy or interest in their proficiency with Adobe software (Photoshop, InDesign)
- Whilst both groups recognised sustainability and building regulations as important knowledge areas, BIM (Building Information Modelling) was seen by 59% of students as a key knowledge area to develop compared with only 31% of employers.
RIBA Enterprises Research and Analysis team conducted the survey on behalf of RIBA Appointments and Newcastle University to increase understanding of employers' needs and help universities to develop and improve their architecture programmes.
Commenting on the survey, Paul Chappell at RIBA Appointments, said:
"The last few years have been incredibly difficult for architectural graduates with practices often receiving over 500 applications per job. We have however noticed an improvement recently and more opportunities are available for the right candidates. This survey though highlights the different expectations of employers and graduates and the importance of matching skill requirements when looking for work."
Dr John Kamara, Senior Lecturer and Director of Learning & Teaching at the School of Architecture Planning and Landscape, Newcastle University, said:
"The survey provides a comparison of the perceptions of students and employers that will be very useful in assisting architecture schools to tailor their programmes to better meet undergraduates' needs and the needs of architectural employers. It is a timely study that will make a positive contribution to the development of skills for architectural practice."
A report on the survey is now available at www.thenbs.com/topics/PracticeManagement/articles/skillsSurvey2011.asp.
Notes to editors
*UCAS, media release, 2012 applicant figures.
** Universities that took part in the survey included Birmingham City University, Nottingham Trent University, Newcastle University and the Architectural Association School of Architecture.
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