RIBAJournal.com

Jan 2014 issue

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Intelligence: Benchmarking

Location, location, location

For Parts 1 and 2 students, finding employment is all about where you are

Caroline Cole
This is probably not a good time to be graduating from schools of architecture. Or is it? The answer is remarkably dependent on where in the country you want to work.
 
The results of the last business benchmarking survey for RIBA Chartered Practices show that London has to be the place to go: on average, a whopping 21% of people working in London practices are Part I or Part II graduates. No other RIBA Nation or Region comes close; next up is Wessex with 15% and West Midlands with 14%. Couple this with the fact that a third of all UK practices are based in London, and the capital’s streets may well be paved with jobs for aspiring architects – at least when compared to other parts of the country.
 
North star
 
At the other end of the scale, the average percentage of the Part I or Part II workforce is only 6% in Wales and 8% in East Midlands, while North East, Northern Ireland, South and Yorkshire all average a modest 10%.
 
To ensure the city lights shine ever brighter, the average salary paid to Part Is in London is 7% higher than the national average. For Part IIs it is 4% higher; although North West pips London to the post: there, the average salary is more than 9% higher. All other regions fall below the national average for Part II salaries, with Northern Ireland, Scotland and South West averaging the lowest figures. Part Is in East Midlands and the South East can expect to join their colleagues in London with above average wages but sadly, those in North East, South West and Yorkshire, are likely to be among the least well paid.
 
When it comes to money, it is of course important to factor in the higher cost of living associated with London. However, sala ries are not the only financial incentives offered and, while we do not know how bonuses are distributed across staff members, we do know that practices in London and North West compound their larger graduate salaries by offering some of the largest bonuses.
 
Lure of London
 
The marked regional differences, in both the number of placements and the financial rewards that graduates can expect, must be of concern – to the RIBA and those regions that are falling short of the average figures. There is no doubt that many of the brightest and best students will be drawn to London, draining other parts of the country of their talented, young professionals. To add to the lure, 50% of practices in London profess to ­offer graduate support programmes. In most other areas the percentage falls below 40%.
 
Surprisingly perhaps, the percentage of the workforce that is Part I or Part II does not vary much as practices grow in size: with the exception of micro practices (where the percentage falls below 10%) the average is between 15% and 17%.
 
However, there is a huge difference ­between the salaries (and add-ons) offered by the smallest and largest practices, with salaries for both Part I and Part II graduates increasing as practices get bigger. In salary terms alone, both can expect to average close to 20% more per annum in a practice with more than 50 people than in one with five or fewer people; add-ons could easily increase this margin by a further 10%. These substantial salary differences must give worry: if the smaller practices are to interest the very best of the new generation, then they must find convincing incentives to counter the money on offer from their larger counterparts, ­especially in the main metropolises where the cost of living is highest.

Female factor
 
There is one other interesting point to mention: despite the fact that schools of architecture say that their graduates are 50:50 male/female, less than 40% of Part Is and Part IIs in chartered practices are women. For Part Is, this percentage rises to a remarkable 58% in both Northern Ireland and Scotland but falls below 30% in East of England, North East, Wales and West Midlands. For Part IIs, none of the regions achieve 50% women: North East gets closest, with 48%, but Wessex is the only other region to exceed 40%. East Midlands, Scotland, South, West Midlands and Yorkshire all fall below 30%. Bearing in mind that the survey also tells us the percentage of women at the most senior position of equity partner or shareholder director is a mere 11%, it really is important that practices employing today’s graduates create a profession that nurtures both sexes. Otherwise the profligate waste of female talent highlighted in this survey will simply continue. •
 
Caroline Cole is director at Colander Associates and author of the business benchmark report for RIBA Chartered Practices. www.colander.co.uk
 
 Perentage of workforce
Average Salaries