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Architectural and Interior Design Recruitment Market Update – Summer 2018

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Q 1- Review White

I hope you enjoyed our Architecture & Interiors Salary and Employment Review 2018 published in February and found it thought-provoking. To help you know what to expect in your market this year, I will be sharing quarterly market updates throughout 2018.


What’s happening in Architecture and Interiors recruitment?

We have seen a strong start to the new financial year with a significant uptick in recruitment activity in both Architecture and Interiors. In this period, we have registered a record-breaking 259 new vacancies, which is a considerable increase on the same period last year.    

As we reported in February, there continue to be winners and losers in the wider sector. We see some retail focused, interior design practices, experiencing tough times and in some instances, there have been redundancies and hiring freezes. Whether we will see the high street recover anytime soon, remains to be seen. Some of these retail focused practices saw this coming and are now peddling hard to diversify and win work in different sectors.

Demand is very strong across both architecture and interiors for people with hospitality, residential or commercial experience, and we are all experiencing significant skills shortages. Candidates with experience in one of these sectors and between 4 to 7 year’s experience are the hottest CV in town and will get multiple offers of an interview.

Commercial Design and Build companies remain very active, and it seems that there is no end to their appetite for talent. With technical detailing experience the in-demand skill set, some companies are taking a "pay what it takes" approach.

Where have all the technicians gone? It's not just commercial D&B that has a growing need for technical proficiency, and we are experiencing increased demand for "old school" technicians. Practices are working hard to "bear hug" the technicians they have and there does not seem to be enough to go around.

Over the last few months, we have seen the market become even more candidate rather than vacancy led, with good candidates having more choice than we have seen for quite some time. At times last year, you had four candidates interviewing for one job, but now we are seeing four practices trying to hire one candidate.

How are practices adapting to the war for talent?

In interiors, keen competition for Mid-Weight talent is blurring the pay band boundaries for designers; Mid-Weights are being poached at Senior pay levels, creating a problematic grey area for pay between Junior and Senior. We regularly see up to 15% pay rises to attract talent and I suspect that if demand continues, we will see this increase further.

For the first time in a while, we are seeing some practices being more flexible on their normally rigid requirement for sector experience and instead they are hiring for attitude, behaviours and ability. Leading the charge here in the war for talent, are the "new school" medium size practices, whom we talked about in our 2018 employment report, published earlier in the year. Time will tell if this becomes a trend or is just a reflection of a currently tight candidate market.

Reminiscent of what we saw happening back in the heady days of 2007, some practices are becoming less prescriptive about hiring talent on a permanent or contract basis, with the candidate often driving the choice and talent being the operative word. If the adage of job security comes from being employable, rather than being employed, then we will see this as a growing trend.

Looking ahead?

BREXIT, its impact on signing projects and how it will affect the Architectural and Interiors skill pool still looms large and hopefully as the year progresses and with the UK Government’s, recent announcement of the long-awaited settlement scheme, announced on June 21st , the picture should become clearer.

Not wishing to appear to "talk up the market", I am going to refrain from predicting whether the current busy, competitive and candidate short market is going to continue or is just a summer blip? However, there are no signs that it won’t.

I will update you again in the autumn, but in the meantime, if you would like to discuss any aspect of this update or any employment and recruitment matters, please get in touch.

FRAME Recruitment