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Market Intelligence: Talent in Architecture

The Market Intelligence workshop series aims to share and increase awareness of industry-specific opportunities and challenges with a focus on future-proofing the talent needs of local businesses.

Course attendee at MIT in Architecture

Please note: Sources for all data cited in this article can be found in this presentation.

This support is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund

On Tuesday 12 November 2019, Nottingham Trent University (NTU) hosted the sixth workshop in our series of sector-focused workshops, with Market Intelligence: Talent in Architecture.

The workshop, delivered by Gradconsult, saw in-depth discussions and dialogue between representatives from companies in the construction industry across Derby, Derbyshire, Nottingham and Nottinghamshire (D2N2) on the topics of:

  • the state of the graduate market nationally and locally
  • key challenges for the sector over the next five years
  • the skills, knowledge and behaviours businesses need graduates to have
  • challenges faced by SMEs in recruitment and retention
  • how NTU can work with local business to help address the above and ensure our talent pipeline meets the future needs of the industry

The graduate market nationally

To begin with, data shows there are not enough young people entering the workforce. This leads to more vacant jobs than there are graduates to fill them as older workers retire. Brexit may complicate this due to a reduced migrant workforce.

However, at the same time, graduate unemployment is at its lowest since 1979 at 5.1%, and 87.5% of graduates are satisfied with their careers after three-and-a-half years.

In the UK, the graduate market is not regulated in the same way as other countries such as Germany or the USA, meaning the provision of university degree places is not linked to workforce requirements, creating a highly non-linear graduate market. This means that many graduates undertake careers in roles that are not directly linked to their area of study.

When considering their prospects, 48% of final year students are still undecided on their future career and are therefore open to influence from business.

While the perception is that a high proportion of graduates will be drawn to London, the majority (69%) actually go to work in the region where they grew up, with a further 13% moving away to go to university and staying there. What may be surprising is that London is the only city in the UK where there is an oversupply of graduates. However, business students have shown an increased willingness to travel for a job.

Additionally, despite a rising perception that degrees don't offer benefits in the same way they used to, those with a degree still earn significantly more than non-graduates over their working life, with undergraduates and postgraduates earning £10k and £16k extra per year respectively on average.

The average salary for architecture is around £24,000 per year. 70.3% of graduates go into full-time work in architecture, with 10-15% going into part-time work or further study.

The graduate job market locally

Some key facts about the graduate market in Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire are that:

  • there are a lower proportion of managers, directors and professional occupations available in both Derby and Nottingham compared to the UK nationally, although Derby fares slightly better.
  • Nottingham comes in at 7th-best UK city for disposable income when comparing graduate starting salary to cost of living
  • Derby tops the table in the same study, although this figure may be attributed to the increased proportion of high-value engineering companies resident in the area
  • the East Midlands has the lowest proportion of residents with a degree in the UK, leading to more demand for skills, but also creating a potential barrier to development and progression

To help attract top talent, businesses can apply and champion these positive messages through their attraction and recruitment of talent in the area, collaborating with NTU to help further advance prosperity and opportunity within the local area.

NTU has 3,268 undergraduate and postgraduate students on architecture-related courses in the 2018/2019 academic year.

Sector trends and threats

Sector trends identified by Gradconsult were:


Urbanisation is a global phenomenon with governments and private developers pre-occupied with creating better cities and sustainable communities. This is an opportunity for architects to lead the debate about our future built environment.

Eco-design and sustainability

Considerations of everything from green spaces to organic materials and sustainable construction methods.

3-D printed interiors

Alongside other cheaper methods such as modular design, this will increasingly form part of designs.

VR and AR

Virtual and augmented reality will be increasingly used to pitch ideas to clients as well as for testing accurate measurements and materials details.

Global firms and consolidations

Local practices will need to specialise, collaborate and maintain quality to establish and keep their point of difference.


The construction industry generates as much as 40% of the world's carbon emissions, meaning the architects of now have a responsibility to design buildings which are socially, economically and ecologically sustainable.

Architects also need to maintain their financial sustainability through increased financial literacy and business planning.

Gradconsult also identified a number of sector threats:


Brexit was almost universally opposed by the industry. 25% of architects are international – a majority of these from the EU – and although the profession has been added to the Shortage Occupation List, the £30,000 salary threshold may lock out younger talent.

Skills shortages

According to KPMG, the UK is "in the grip of an industry-wide skills shortage which shows no signs of abating".

Course attendee at MIT in Architecture

Key challenges for the next 5 years

Gradconsult encouraged the architecture industry representatives to share their views on what would be the key challenges for the next 5 years.


Technology is a big issue for many practices. Many are exploring options to invest in new tech such as virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) software, but they will also need to either up-skill existing staff or recruit people with the skills to make the most of the opportunities. Cost is also a big consideration in this area.

Graduates lacking basic construction knowledge

Some of the businesses in the room felt that while Building Information Modelling (BIM) software is rightly focused on for current architecture students as it makes work much quicker and easier, the software does so much of the work for them that it means they do not have basic construction knowledge and may miss problems or not understand fundamental things.


This is a big consideration for all practices but is huge in scale and affects everything from design considerations down to where the building materials are sourced and how they are made.


While identified as a challenge, all felt that the extent of its effect on the industry cannot be clarified. Practices have experienced developers and funders being more hesitant leading to delayed work, thereby making planning more difficult.

Course attendees at MIT in Architecture

The skills, knowledge and behaviours that businesses need graduates to have


The businesses felt that working efficiency is something that they often have to spend quite a lot of time keeping an eye on to ensure new recruits are aware of the importance of balancing quality with keeping to deadlines.

Commercial awareness

Linked to the above, it was noted that graduates often do not have much commercial awareness and therefore don't appreciate the time and money pressures that businesses, particularly SMEs, can face.

This is a common theme across all industries, and by embedding assessed work experience opportunities in all undergraduate degrees, NTU are seeking to proactively address this issue.


It was felt that graduates can often find it difficult to come out of the 'university bubble', and experience more complex and competing demands in a professional environment for the first time.

A key skill required is the ability to deal with these demands, but more importantly, how to be resilient and learn from when things don't go to plan.

A positive mindset

A positive and proactive mindset was considered extremely important by all businesses, particularly the ability to identify gaps in ones own skills, knowledge and behaviours, and to understand that their development will be ongoing throughout your whole career.

For advice on recruitment, including attraction, selection and retention, email

Recruitment challenges

Skilled labour shortages

There is an ongoing skills shortage related to the ageing workforce and issues arising from Brexit. There is also a current lack of mid-level expertise following a historical downturn in graduate training investment after the recession starting in the late 2000s.

Perception of the industry and working practices

Although not actually reflective of them, architecture may be affected by the public perception of the wider construction industry and STEM subjects in areas such as gender balance.

There is also an issue with students and graduates being asked to undertake work experience for free, which can be a barrier for those from lower-income backgrounds, or those with dependants, leading to poor social mobility in the industry.

Architects also often have very long working hours which can have an impact on work-life balance.

Poor career advice provision for school-age children

Many of the businesses expressed a regret that younger adults or school-age children are not given a positive impression of the industry, and many do not know what an architect is or does.

For advice on recruitment, including attraction, selection and retention, email

The NTU talent pool and how SMEs can get involved

NTU currently has 3,268 undergraduate and postgraduate students on architecture-related courses in the 2018/19 academic year. These come from a range of degree discipline clusters including architecture, interior architecture and design, and architectural technology.

Businesses can also take advantage of degree apprenticeships in many of the above field. As an SME they may also be able to take advantage of 95% funding dependent on eligibility.

In addition to this, there are a range of short and professional courses available covering areas such as leadership and management, such as the Women in Leadership course offered through the Priority Skills for D2N2 SMEs project.

There are plenty of opportunities for businesses of all sizes to engage with students from NTU. A seleection of these opportunities include:

  • Live and employer-led project – where businesses set students a challenge to solve a particular business problem
  • Degree shows
  • Architecture Exchange, February 2020 – a chance for networking and displays of student work
  • Final-year mentoring programme – run with RIBA East Midlands and includes three half-day visits for groups of final-year students
  • Women in the Build Environment events

To explore any of these options, or to access other support around recruitment, contact the Employability team at NTU at

Market Intelligence: Talent in...?

The Market Intelligence: Talent in Architecture was the sixth workshop in the series to be delivered throughout 2019 and 2020.

The full programme of workshops are:

Workshops are invite-only, but you will be able to find articles such as these covering each sector on the NTU website.

How the High Level Skills programme supports SMEs

If you have any questions about any of the above, or want to enquire about engaging with NTU as a business, please get in touch.

You can contact us via any of the below channels:

Our Market Intelligence: Talent in …? workshops are delivered through the GRADS for D2N2 project. To find out more about this project and the wider support that NTU can offer, visit our website.

* The GRADS for D2N2 project is part-funded by the European Social Fund and is part of the ESF High Level Skills programme. The programme is delivered by NTU as part of the High Level Skills consortium which also includes Derby College, Nottingham College, the University of Derby, Vision West Nottinghamshire College and Nottingham City Council.