The Skills Survey Report sheds new light on the expectations of both employers and recent graduates.

With architectural vacancies hitting a six-year high in 2014, it seems the architecture and design professions are finally shaking off the shackles of the recession as buoyant order books spur new-found confidence and investment in people.

But a new survey from RIBA Appointments (the recruitment arm of the Royal Institute of British Architects) suggests employers and graduates are not impressed with the skills and abilities of newly qualified professionals.

The study found that both groups agree that students/recent graduates haven’t got the practical skills needed to practise architecture (according to 80% of employers and 73% of students/recent graduates) and the vast majority (86% and 82% respectively) lack the knowledge to build what they design.

The Skills Survey Report also reflects the fact employers are currently carrying a significant burden when it comes to training and development. As Yarema Ronish, Director at Richard Morton Architects and an RIBA client advisor explains: “I can think of no other profession where new graduates must wait a decade or more to be given significant responsibility because they have not acquired basic skills in university.”

No surprise then, that a clear theme to emerge was that students should spend more time in practice during training to ensure ‘work-readiness’ (cited by 79% of employers and 77% of students), and more than half of employers and two-thirds of graduates also think there should be alternative routes into architecture, such as apprenticeships.

“The Skills Survey highlights some areas for concern, with a widespread feeling that many architectural students and graduates are simply not being provided with the skills they need to work in practice. At the same time it is recognised that architecture is not just a technical skill and students do need to understand the development and meaning of architecture, and its place in culture and values.

“With the RIBA already undertaking a review of architectural education, it will be interesting to see how routes into architecture change, and how this affects attitudes towards and among architectural schools and students' skills in the future.” Paul Chappell, Manager at RIBA appointments

Download the RIBA Appointments Skills Survey Report 2014 – free of charge (.pdf, 2.7Mb) download

Key statistics to take away from the RIBA Appointments Skills Survey Report

  • Employers and students agree that students/recent graduates lack practical skills needed to practice architecture (80% and 73%) and the knowledge to build what they design (86% and 82% respectively).
  • 79% of employers and 77% of students believe students should spend more time in practice during training to ensure 'work-readiness' and 54% of employers and 62% of students/recent graduates believe apprenticeships would be welcome.
  • Employers still see hand drawing as a core skill (70% of employers rated it, compared to 33% of students/recent graduates). One third of students rated writing, significantly less than the 59% of employers who did.
  • There are some substantial gaps in knowledge, particularly around the planning process at Part 1 and 2. Typically employers cite around a 14% points shortfall in such knowledge at Part 1 and a 23% points shortfall at Part 2.
  • 65% of employers admit they often struggle to find people with the right skills and experience.
  • Once in work graduates still expect to earn more than employers are willing to pay. At Part 1 there's a £500 gap (students expecting to earn £19,259), Part 2 sees a £2,300 gap (£25,830) and Part 3 £3,700 (£32,340).