Architects in Australia Concerned that Employers Prioritise Software Skills over Design Capabilities

December 27, 20168:06 am413 views

Architects in Australia are concerned that some employers are prioritising a candidate’s BIM software skills over their design capabilities, which will have long-term consequences for the industry’s talent pipeline and reputation.

This is one finding from a survey of 201 architectural professionals in Australia and New Zealand, in addition to the personal insights of 9 employers, which are shared in a new report by recruiting experts Hays ‘The role of an architect today & tomorrow’.

Commenting on the findings Adam Shapley, Senior Regional Director of Hays Architecture says, “Architects are clearly passionate about their profession. They are influential creative thinkers who take their responsibilities seriously. They have a strong social conscious and embrace sustainability. They are good communicators and have mastered the art of diplomacy in order to deal professionally and effectively with their clients.”

“But they are concerned about the quality of design standards since some employers have made hiring decisions based on a candidate’s BIM skills rather than their design capabilities. At the same time, they recognise the need to upskill in the latest technology in order to do their job successfully.”

“They want to work for employers who embrace innovation, provide opportunities for their staff to learn on-the-job and who keep up-to-date with the latest trends, particularly around new technology and tools such as design-to-fabrication and augmented reality and virtual reality. They want to experiment with new materials and be part of the building process.”

Key findings include:

  • Architectural professionals are highly experienced, university educated and more likely to be male than female.
    • 72% are employed full time. Of these, 70% would prefer flexible working arrangements or part-time work.
    • 79% say they have the necessary skills to advance their career – those who don’t plan to upskill through on-the-job experience.
    • Only 19% say there are sufficient professionals in the industry with the right level of Revit skills to meet demand now and in the future.
    • 89% say both employers and employees are responsible for upskilling architectural professionals.
    • 46% have been hired for a role without having the required software experience – of these, 83% said it took less than 6 months to upskill.
    • Over three-quarters (77%) believe architects will always need hand drawing skills.
    • Problem solving and creative thinking are the two most important soft skills required.
    • 42% say offshoring documentation work impacts their job opportunities.
    • When asked who is responsible for building a sustainable future, 96% said the government, 83% the architect and 79% the client.
    • They use a broad range of devices and tools to practice their job, including desktop (86%), laptop (63%), smart phone (61%), tablet (37%), GPS positioning (16%), 3D printing (13%) and virtual reality (6%).
    • Architects say that in the next few years, they will need to become familiar with digital design-to-fabrication tools (53%), augmented reality and virtual reality tools (also 53%), writing algorithms and software to generate architecture (27%), composites (18%), scripting (14%) and artificial intelligence (12%) in order to do their job effectively.

See: Demand for Knowledge Workers and Highly-Skilled Professionals Increase in Australia

No one sustainable tool or practice was agreed upon as a single area of focus for the future. Instead architects said they’ll need to employ multiple sustainable tools and systems in the design phase to offset or minimise a project’s impact on the natural environment, including building integrated photovoltaics, passive building design, energy and thermal modelling, zero waste and carbon materials, greywater systems and rainwater recovery systems.

Over the last ten years an architect’s influence in the entire project lifecycle has decreased, yet 91 percent architects say, they should be part of the building process. Some say employers view an architect’s BIM software skills as more imperative than their design abilities.

When considering a job at a particular practice, the quality of the work (80%), their fit with the vision, culture and values (69%) and the salary (68%) influence them. The quality of the work (67%) and work-life balance (also 67%) retain them.

Recommendations for employers

  • Candidates need a strong technical foundation in software, such as Revit, but not at the expense of creative ability
    • Consider training candidates (in Revit) if they are otherwise the ideal fit for your role and team
    • Make soft skills part of your selection criteria, with problem solving and creative design and thinking important
    • Consider the digital and technology skills you’ll need tomorrow – look for aptitude to adaptability and candidates who are willing to learn and are interested in new tools such as digital design-to fabrication or virtual reality.
    • Keep your knowledge of the latest sustainability tools and practices up to date. Employees will look to you to provide new tools or incorporate new practices into the workplace so that they learn on-the-job. By investing in the development of your staff in this way, you’ll gain a strong retention advantage
    • Consider offering flexible working arrangements or part-time hours, if possible. If this isn’t possible, what other work-life balance initiatives could you introduce to attract and retain staff?
    • Promote the quality of the work your practice produces in order to attract candidate interest.

Recommendations for architectural professionals

  • Develop a strong, broad and current technical foundation then continuously build upon it. Make upskilling part of your regular career development
    • Become highly proficient in Revit but don’t stop there. While Revit skills are necessary for today and tomorrow, gain expertise in as many programs as possible in order to enhance your employability and transferable skills.
    • Upskill in the latest technology tools. For example, digital design-to-fabrication, augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) tools will need to become part of your repertoire.
    • Demonstrate to employers an appetite and aptitude to learn quickly.
    • Demonstrate leadership skills, as practices need people leaders, not just project leaders.
    • Work on your soft skills and accept any opportunity to solve problems, think creatively, demonstrate your attention to detail and communicate with clients or contractors. You’ll be able to demonstrate practical examples in future job interviews.
    • Make sure you are aware of the latest sustainable tools and practices as well as building materials. Learn on-the-job, read trade journals, join a professional body, network and consider formal courses. Be willing to experiment with emerging tools and practices.
    • When looking for a new job, assess the quality of the work produced and ensure you are aligned to the vision and values of the practice.

Also read: How can Companies in Australia Counter the IT risks caused by BYOD?

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