July 2, 2011 at 3:05 am #161670
Opened this month’s edition of LASN and came across a synopsis of the recent ASLA Firm Survey. It appears that things are holding their own, but are not really improving at all on the employment front.
Inquiries and billing hours are up slightly. However, things are the same or worse for more than half the firms. The largest single breakdown was for things getting slightly better (5 to 10% growth) or staying the same. This seems to roughly reflect what I have seen of AIA architecture billing indecies, but the last publishing of those numbers showed a downward trend, which was April (the same time the ASLA survey was taken). This downward trend marked the first time since October that the index declined and the trend worsened slightly into May.
The comparisons ASLA asked firms to make were between the 4th quarter of 2010 and the
first quarter of 2011, as well as the 1st quarter of 2010 with the first quarter of 2011. Not seeing the entire report (not sure where to find it on ASLA, and I think you have to pay a lot for it), it would have been nice to see a chart over the last 5 years to see the overall trend, not just quarter to quarter. You can hide a lot by such limited surveys.
As far as LA employment, 69.5% of respondents stated that they are not planning to hire in the second quarter of 2011. If you are an experienced LA, your statistics are pitiful. A mere 6% of respondents stated they were planning to hire an experienced LA. To put it another way, 94% said they were not hiring anybody with experience.
The news is better for recent grads, with 10.3% taking advantage of a warm body with minimal CAD production skills and little pay. And for interns, who don’t get paid, 8.2% plan to bring on those.
Forget Prozac, I need Darnitall.July 2, 2011 at 3:55 am #161685
I’m sure its more about “little pay” than anything else. The experienced LAs who accept an “entry level salary” may get work over recent grads. I haven’t read the article. Mail in Hawaii is usually…like most things…a day or two behind the mainland. What if you break it down by geographic region in U.S. or international work?
Those are dismal numbers, but interesting, thanks for sharing the info.July 2, 2011 at 11:21 am #161684
When you think about it, does it not make sense that there is no need to hire experienced LAs? I have not worked in a big firm, so I am speculating that it works similar to smaller situations. The person or people at the top do the designing and the rest are there for production. One person can oversee a fair amount of production and with all the cuts made in the last several years, I would think that most have the ability to manage more staff than they have had recently. They may be able to absorb quite a bit more production staff before needing more management.July 2, 2011 at 4:37 pm #161683
Douglas M. RooneyParticipant
You are dead on in your analysis Andrew. Most firms I know currently have a “barbell” structure. They are composed of the partners and the junior production staff. Everyone at the firm has less than 5 years experience or more than 20 years. Middle management need not apply. I still think it is quite hard for young people coming out of school to get hired if they have no experience. This may be directly related to the lack of people in the middle who typically would be managing this most “green” staff. Let this be a lesson for those who are still in school…..do everything in your power to get internship time in a office before graduation (even if it is unpaid). Employers are looking for people who can hit the ground running, and having office experience when you graduate gives you a great advantage over your classmates.July 2, 2011 at 6:36 pm #161682
I’ve seen that structure as well, mostly at very small firms. But there is a drawback to that. You are leaving the junior staff pretty much to their own devices and are taking risk with document production and errors. The experienced LA will also be faster with creation of documents, and getting them right the first time. The middle person can redline for the partner, manage junior staff, and run the job through construction and travel to sites, leaving the senior staff to do what their primary job is…GETTING WORK. I’ve seen and have interviewed with some firms looking to bring in experienced part-time technical consultants to do just that. Unfortunately, they know they don’t have to pay very well…far below what a temporary consultant should be making. Firms need at least ONE middle-manager or senior LA just to have someone fully capable of running a job beginning to end on the drafting floor.July 2, 2011 at 8:44 pm #161681
I would agree with one caveat–I think it is difficult, if not impossible for true ‘entry levels’ to find jobs as well as more experienced ‘middle management’ types.
I’m working part time at a large form now and see this structure. The ‘skeleton crew’ staff is comosed mostly of ‘junior levels’ wqith say 3-6 years experience and a few partners or upper level management types. Fortunately, It’s not a true ‘pyramid’ structure in that design is done at the top with everyone else there for production–it’s a much more collaborative environment where everyone there is smart and has a range of skills. I see it as everyone is contributing 120% with the juniors taking on more responsibility and the partners or senior levels working harder to not only manage staff, but manage administrative tasks.
I’m also working at a small firm from home where I’ve taken on a greater role both in design and business development. I’ve seen that our ability to adapt has kept us thriving.
My short analysis would be that the job market is most difficult for those in the middle and entry levels.July 6, 2011 at 11:33 pm #161680
It is a disgusting suggestion that supposedly nature-oriented LAs might bulk buy Prozac when St. John’s Wort is a more natural product, associated with midsummer and has always been considered suitable even for mums-to-be lol.July 8, 2011 at 2:58 am #161679
Douglas M. RooneyParticipant
And to prove Nick’s point….here is a gem from SF Bay Area Craiglist today looking for an AutoCAD drafter for an Architect:
Drafter 3-5 years experience in Autocad (SOMA / south beach)
MWA Architects is looking for a drafter with 3-5 years experience. This position is for a recent graduate, and we will not be looking a resumes with more than 5 years experience. Our firm, which this year celebrates 23 years as a firm, has offices in San Francisco, Oakland, Portland OR, and Detroit, MI. This job is located in our South of Market offices in San Francisco. We are looking for someone with a professional degree, who has AutoCad experience. It would be helpful to be a resident of the Bay Area, and to have an interest in affordable housing, one of our specialties. We look forward to receiving your resume. Please do not send portfolio material; we will ask for that later.
Is it just me or are job ads become more hostile?July 8, 2011 at 6:36 am #161678
You ain’t kidding! Geez. I can see their point, rather their frustration. I know of firms that literally receive many hundreds of applications from people who are not qualified (more like overqualified) for the position. If this is a small firm without a dedicated HR department, it takes time away from getting other work done to sift through all the resumes to weed out a few that actually fit what you are looking for. And with unemployment offices requiring so many contacts a week/month, people just send in applications to any firm that posts one to get the “credit.” The market sucks so much that they were probably getting appications from licensed architects with masters degrees and 15 years experience who did not specialize in affordable housing.July 8, 2011 at 12:46 pm #161677
I’m not seeing hostility in that ad at all. The only negative thing at all, if you can call it that, is that they are being very clear that they do not want to get buried in resumes for positions that they are not offering.
I see a hint that they may have been getting too much stuff to filter through when they put out job offers. It seems very possible to me that they are getting a lot of applicants, a lot of portfolios, and a heck of a lot of work to sort through it all.
We just went through resumes, interviews, and hired an EIT to train as I implement my exit strategy. We had hints of the same problem. It was advertised as an entry level position, but many applicants had many years of experience. The description of what we do was very clear, but most of the applicants had not followed an educational track that would have them prepared or showed any interest for such work. Finally, many were applying from great distances that made it logistically impractical to interview them or for them to work through a trial period.
All that ad above is trying to do is to keep people who simply won’t make the cut from forcing the office to have to work to sort through their stuff in order to get down to the only thing that they were asking for in the first place. It is not harsh language. What else could they do?July 8, 2011 at 12:53 pm #161676
PS. I’d take any recent BLA over what we got. It appears that civil engineering students are either being steared away or are uninterested in learning how to do site plans. Our applicants had “a CAD class” and very little site plan drafting, if any. I recommend any jobless BLA to look for and answer every ad you can find for lower level civil site planning because you are much better prepared and educationally experienced to do this than undergrad civils coming out of school it seems.July 8, 2011 at 2:51 pm #161675
I prefer other medicinals. And bourbon.July 8, 2011 at 3:59 pm #161674
Kevin J. GaughanParticipant
This is interesting, because this is not at all the atmosphere I am experiencing here in MD. In just the past year every LA friend I had who was looking for a job has found one. I know 3 companies that just started or broke off other firms (including the one I work for), and I have several friends who just in the past month have changed jobs within the profession. Every landsape contractor I am working with is busy, and we still have more projects coming in from architects than we know what to do with…
Anyone else feeling these same positive indicators in their region as well?July 8, 2011 at 4:19 pm #161673
I’m seeing the opposite in MD…and among the different allied professions. Firms that were busy are slowing down as projects from a few years ago finish, and new work is rolling in slowly if at all. I’ve seen some activity in hiring, but not of experienced people. And what is available for expereinced people has been part time temporary (contract based) work. The residential market is relatively steady in the region because of the stability of so many government jobs in the region, but commercial is still in the dumps.July 8, 2011 at 6:38 pm #161672
I spent the day yesterday schmoozing here in Western Colorado to let local architects and engineering firms know I’m still around. Let’s see, three engineering firms closed, one architect office closed, three engineering firms with time to “chat” and the largest local LA firm down to three bodies. A couple of phone calls with “that number has been disconnected” answers. Ya, it’s great here. Someone tell Obama to get off the links and see whats happening in the heartland.
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