The employment market for architects and designers is set to remain reasonably strong during the second half of the year as a growing portfolio of commercial building projects helps to offset the decline in residential and multi-residential work, the latest report says.

Releasing its Jobs Report for July to December, recruitment firm Hays says the market for architectural services and employment in Australia will remain active in coming months thanks to a robust pipeline of commercial and public building projects.

This comes as job vacancy data from the federal government indicates that vacancies for architectural roles are decreasing and that demand for architectural staff may have softened (see below).

In support of its outlook, Hays points to a recent survey it conducted as part of preparation for its Hays Salary Guide released in June.

Almost half (47 percent) of all architecture firms who responded to that survey indicated an intention to increase their headcount during 2019/20.

In particular, Hays says that:

  • Sydney’s architecture market will be buoyant with the emergence of new studios, State Government Transport and Health projects and commercial hotel projects.
  • Canberra has several exciting projects and plans in the pipeline, while in Victoria there is a strong focus on commercial, infrastructure and health projects.
  • South Australia’s architecture market will remain active too thanks to major defence and development projects.
  • Queensland will be a market to watch, with many large projects underway or soon to commence, such as the Cross River Rail, Brisbane Metro and Queens Wharf Brisbane. Projects such as Queens Wharf Brisbane will in turn provide the opportunity for additional commercial CBD projects. This is creating demand for a range of professionals, particularly those with experience on major projects.
  • Perth’s market continues to see stronger growth, with experienced candidates looking for their next career-advancing opportunity.
  • Tasmania’s strong construction industry has added to demand for architectural services and candidates with commercial and residential experience.

Around Australia, opportunities for architects and architectural firms are shifting as the number of new projects in the previously red-hot residential sector drops back but a buoyant market remains in commercial building.

On a seasonally adjusted basis, the dollar value of commercial and other non-residential buildings approved for construction throughout the first five months of this year came in at $18.753 billion – on par with elevated levels experienced in the corresponding periods in 2018 and 2017 and up by 35 percent compared with the $13.946 billion approved during the first five months of the year four years ago in 2015.

Salary data is also encouraging.

In data provided to Sourceable following the release of its monthly report, job search web site SEEK says that average salaries for roles advertised on its site in May are up by nine percent compared with May 2018 in the case of landscape designers and eight percent in the case of industrial designers.

Over that timeframe, salaries for architects, interior architects and urban planning and design have risen by modest but respectable levels of three percent each.

Whilst the Hays report paints an optimistic picture, however, vacancy data indicates that the market has softened from its dizzying heights of recent years.

In its Job Vacancies report, the Department of Jobs, Skills and Training puts the number of vacancies for architects and landscape architects as at May at 662 – the lowest level on record and well below the 823 vacancies registered in May last year.

Year-on-year, that same data shows that vacancy number for interior designers and urban and regional planners have fallen from 473 to 265 and from 327 to 250 respectively.

Interior designer vacancies are now lower than at any other time since January 2015.

Hotspots of Demand

According to Hays, areas of demand are as outlined below.

Given vacancy activity across the country, hotspots of skills in demand are emerging. REVIT Technicians are needed. Given the repetitive nature of this job, it is typically used as a stepping stone to a more senior position. As a result, there is a constant need to replace departing staff and secure new Technicians for project deadlines. Employers request experienced local candidates who have worked on similar projects. This market is very candidate short.

Graduate Architects are also sought. Employers look for candidates with experience who can work autonomously with little guidance.

Landscape Designers are another area of demand. Both graduate and mid-level candidates with strong Revit skills and local experience are sought. Those with DA and CC documentation abilities who have worked across varied project types are highly sought after. Soft skills, particularly communication skills, are equally as important.

Interior Designers are in demand, however there is a shortage of candidates with the necessary commercial experience to lead projects autonomously. There’s also a shortage of candidates with public sector experience. Those with Revit experience stand out. Employers will interview suitable candidates as soon as they become available. To secure the top talent, such employers need to act quickly and commit with a timely job offer.

Project Lead Architects are another area of demand. This role requires Architects with exposure to all stages of a project and experience leading their own projects. This limits the pool of suitable candidates.

Design Architects are also sought. Design is typically completed by a firm’s senior architects, often the Directors. Consequently, few Architects gain exposure to the initial concept design stage.

Other areas of demand exist for intermediate level Drafters, Senior Planners, Urban Designers and Urban Planners.

Finally, Revit experience is highly sought after in most roles. A lot of businesses have not upskilled their staff in Revit, preferring instead to recruit new candidates with a working knowledge of the software. This reluctance to upskill has added to the skill shortage.

Salary Growth Ahead

Referring to research collated for its recent salary guide, Hays says 88 percent of employers across the property and construction sector intend to offer pay increases during the next salary review.

With just over half of these expecting to offer increases equal to three percent or less, however, candidates seeking to rake in large pay rises may encounter resistance from their employers.

Hays also says that prospects for salary increases vary according to location.

In NSW, the demand for Interior Designers and Architects with public sector or commercial experience will place continued upward pressure on salaries.

In Canberra, Senior Planners, Urban Designers and Interior Designers are expected to continue to see moderate salary growth.

In Victoria, it is Architects and Interior Designers with experience with Revit who will see salary growth.

Tasmania’s strong construction industry has added to demand for Architects with commercial and residential experience, which is pushing up salaries.

In Queensland we will see moderate salary increases for architectural professionals with experience in major projects.

Finally, South Australia’s demand for Interior Designers, Landscape Architects and Urban Planners is set to continue, with commensurate salary increases expected.