State of the Profession

This topic contains 1 reply, has 39 voices, and was last updated by  nca 7 years, 11 months ago.

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  • #170011

    Tom Cluff
    Participant

    I’ve been musing a bit on the state of the profession lately (I’m supposed to be working on final projects, so naturally, I’m thinking about something else).

    I’ve heard anecdotal accounts of firms that went from 20 or 25 employees down to 2 or 3. I’ve heard of firms even closing up shop completely. I’ve heard people in the profession estimate unemployment among LAs anywhere from 15% to 35% (a few even as high as 50% but that seems like hyperbole to me). At any rate, it’s bad.

    So, I’m interested in finding out what the employment picture really is. ASLA doesn’t track this, neither does the Bureau of Labor Statistics. At least, not in enough detail, nor often enough, to get a picture of how our profession is doing during this downturn. Does anyone have any suggestions of where to find good indicators of how bad a beating our profession is really taking?

    Also, (given that there isn’t likely going to be that much real data on this) I’m interested in ‘cataloging’ the downturn so to speak. I’d like to gather people’s estimates of what has happened. To wit:

    • Of the LAs you know, how many lost their jobs after the economy went bad?
    • How many were practicing before the downturn, but are not right now?
    • How many of those who are practicing today are underemployed? Moderately or severely underemployed?
    • As for firms, what have you seen happen to them in the downturn?
    • How bad have the layoffs been in the firms that you know of?
    • Do you know of any that have closed their doors entirely?
    #170122

    nca
    Participant

    I agree that I dont think it matters how talented or skilled a person is. I know people with zero skill or work ethic and great job security at outstanding firms, and I know extremely talented, passionate, hard-working people who should be working unemployed and floundering.

    Someone said in another post that this has been more akin to musical chairs perhaps than anything else–right place, right time or you’re out.

    My only two suggestions from my very limited experience would be please dont work for free, and have a plan B.

    As for your questions Tom–They’re sort of rhetorical. All of those things occurred here locally. Staff has been cut at many firms by more than half and still continuing, maybe half of the people I know who were practicing still are employed in LA. I think 2 or 3 of my graduating class found jobs in LA.

    #170121

    alland
    Participant

    Ive been doing consulting with clients, mainly design build firms and pray that no one is doing work for free…some clients may try to talk you into doing free designing/drafting by way of revisions. Be cool and stick by your hours and fee. There is some room to negotiate, but you will soon get the idea of whom is looking to have you do free work. Free design and drafting bastardizes our profession. Ever deal with an attorney? Say what you want, but they do not sneeze without billing. It is the ony way to qualify and quantify our profession. Not alot can be dome without presenting a plan, most everyone knows this…..WE DO NOT WORK FOR FREE
    keep saying it….

    PS If contractors can sign a job without a drawing, god bless em. they will need an LA somewhere down the road….

    #170120

    Jonathan J. Bob
    Participant

    When i meet with a client and discuss my fee, occasionally I will get “ABC Landscaping will do a free design or that they will credit back the cost of the design fee if we contract with them to do the work”. I then explain that “free” design is often worth what you paid for it and that if a contractor is “refunding” the design fee back if he does the work, the cost of the fee is worked back into the cost of the work. Therefore no free design. Also certain contractors may try to design what they have available or in surplus and not what is best for the design or client. I do design work for sevseral contractors and I design towards the clients needs (as it should be) and not to what the contractor needs to install.

    #170119

    nca
    Participant

    I think what’s been happening in design-build and what tends to be happening more frequently now in design-only firms is a bit different.

    When I was in design-build there were always companies willing to do lots of free work to land the install. This is sort of what led me to go back to school and pursue a design-only career. I often did free work as a designer just because there was so much competition in the area that gave away services-albeit I was probably barking up the wrong tree in terms of clientele.

    The dilemma in design-only firms lately has been the saturation of the job market with qualified new graduates and designers willing to work for nothing in order to get a little experience. Some firms are calling these ‘internships’ which they are by definition, NOT.

    #170118

    nca
    Participant

    In that scenario I could see how design fee could help qualify clients very easily as well.

    #170117

    Tom Cluff
    Participant

    @james ivy – Thanks for the response. Your answer is very helpful. It is also the closest to what I was after in starting this discussion. I wonder though, would it be possible for you to estimate totals for the questions in my post? I’m sorry if I’m imposing.

    @ Nick Aceto – It’s unfortunate that they seem like rhetorical questions. I’m really trying to get a better handle on the state of affairs.

    As I mentioned, no one tracks unemployment specifically for the LA profession. My questions are intended to elicit responses along the lines of James Ivy’s. The more comprehensive the better. I want this information, but it just isn’t available anywhere that I’ve been able to find. I’m not quite to the point that I’m ready to do my own survey to find out what real employment numbers are (I don’t have any need that justifies that sort of cost), but I would like something a little better than I’ve been able to run across so far. These questions are intended to be a sort of “pre-survey test” where, if I can get enough responses – and if those responses are broad enough – I can estimate the parameters of what I’d get if I did actually survey for this data.

    So, I realize I am asking a lot of people; think of all the LAs you know, then answer the questions as best you can. I also realize the results aren’t going to be very robust. But, even if the results aren’t a true picture of the carnage in the profession, it would still be a better picture than the narrow anecdotal slices most of us are relying on presently.
    _____________________________________________

    Everyone else: I understand the frustration over people working for free. I seem to remember seeing other discussions on Land8 about this topic though. If we need to talk about it on this thread, I’m fine with that. But could we also try and answer the questions I started with? I think this info would be nice to have for more than just myself.

    #170116

    Sousuke
    Participant

    Hi Tom,

    To answer you questions from personal experience:

    * Of the LAs you know, how many lost their jobs after the economy went bad?

    I would say that about 15-18% of the LAs I know have lost their job at some point in 2 years.

    * How many were practicing before the downturn, but are not right now? / * How many of those who are practicing today are underemployed? Moderately or severely underemployed?

    40% of those who lost their jobs, found new ones in the field. One in particular, took a post in Singapore and also did temp work until getting a Job recently in Canada. Another 40% left the field entirely, mostly going into the medical field. The remaining 20% are still unemployed. They are long term unemployed.

    * As for firms, what have you seen happen to them in the downturn?

    Mainly layoffs in the form of a few here and there every few months.

    * How bad have the layoffs been in the firms that you know of?

    Anywhere from 30% – 50%….keeping in mind that a few have had none and are actually growing

    * Do you know of any that have closed their doors entirely?

    No, but I know of a few near the edge.

    Just an observation that I am seeing, it appears that in the last 6 months or so firms are restocking the highest experience levels (10+ years) and are even starting to hire 5-6+ years.

    I’ve personally gotten the impression that unemployment levels are not equal by experience. IE Graduates sound like they may be mostly unemployed, 1-4 Years might be in the 30-50% range, 5-10 might be in the 10-20% and people with more experience 10+ are generally doing slightly better at riding this out.

    #170115

    Socorro Alatorre
    Participant

    Good conversation going on. One thing that was not discussed is how many still employed la professional have taken a salary cut. I know of few firms that opted for this option rather than laying off people, some that went half time too. I believe that that was a good move unfortunately there hasn’t been any recovery and thus such firms have had to lay off people as well.
    And yes, I know of firms that have closed the doors, at least on satellite offices. What is amazing, one of this firms was doing far better than others at the beginning of the recession and then it ended up closing! I am not familiar with the projects they were working on but I know many were from Asia and the Middle East which tent to be more conservative and have taken more drastic moves toward project development. Having said that, I also know few firms/people surviving out of international projects, again Asia and Middle East.

    Of the unemployed people I know, me being one of them, getting a job has not been easy. You have the qualifications but may be too experience or maybe you don’t have the experience in the specific area they are looking for. One way or another, the truth is that there are many people looking and wiling to work for almost no pay – which I appreciate Nick’s comment about not working for free, this honestly hurts the profession even more.

    #170114

    nca
    Participant

    * Of the LAs you know, how many lost their jobs after the economy went bad?

    I could only throw out a guesstimate of maybe 50% or more. I know a lot of LA’s. Maybe 1 or 2 are working from my graduating class. It seems like it went for months where I’d hear of layoffs by the tens almost weekly just in the Denver/Front Range area. I have no ide how to get a ‘real’ number on this.

    * How many were practicing before the downturn, but are not right now? / * How many of those who are practicing today are underemployed? Moderately or severely underemployed?

    I could probably consider something like 95% of those I know working to be underemployed to some degree. Moderately to severely, yes.

    * As for firms, what have you seen happen to them in the downturn?

    They have downsized and laid people off. Some of have just cut hours and some have closed their doors entirely or consolidated with larger firms.

    * How bad have the layoffs been in the firms that you know of?

    I dont know how Sousuke was able to get it down to a percentage of 15-18%..Is that off the top of your head? From my experience, as I stated maybe 2 or 3 of my graduating class of 45 or so actually found work in LA. Of those, I dont know if all or any of them still have jobs. I know more people than I can count off the top of my head just in the Denver area who have lost their jobs from junior entry level with less than a year of experience to senior and even principal level people. So, I guess that would be ‘pretty bad?’.

    * Do you know of any that have closed their doors entirely?

    Yes.

    I dont really know how realistic it is to put real numbers to these questions as they’re pretty subjective. From experience, all I can really attest to is that it ‘seems’ like maybe 50% of the LA’s I know are unemployed completely or working as fry cooks. Perhaps it’s just so bad in this area that it would seem odd to me that someone would indicate answers to these questions that we couldn’t presume.

    I guess the questions seem rhetorical to me because there has been so much discussion on the state of the profession with regard to the economy here and elsewhere. I was hired in November and we have work, but it’s a two person office and it still feels week to week. Residential is seeing some work coming in and there have been ads for jobs there, but engineering, arch, and LA offices in the area are closing and downsizing..and there is a whole new graduating class entering the market in just a couple months. If I didnt find the job I did in November, through almost sheer luck, I would certainly be teaching skiing, washing dishes, or digging trenches.

    #170113

    Rick Spalenka
    Participant

    The few LAs in Western Colorado are pretty idle. We could know the state of the profession by the attendance numbers at this year’s ASLA conference in Washington, DC. I have an architect friend who is a principal of a Pacific NW firm. He said his firm had two offices, 27 employees and 7 partners last year. Now they have one office, 5 employes and him with one other partner. No design work and little post design work on the board and none on the horizon. What’s the future?

    #170112

    alland
    Participant

    I have been professionally practicing since 1995. Since then, I have worked for 4 design build firms, and 4 engineering firms. I left three of these jobs for the other one. The rest, let go for lack of work, and most BEFORE the recession. Keep in mind that this is in the overdeveloped, maxed out (mostly) and unappealing paved over public spaces of NJ. This can give you some kind of barometer of a market driven tough environment.

    Not that its an all encompassing barometer, but id thught i would share…

    #170111

    nca
    Participant

    I’ve heard that THE actual unemployment figures for Architecture were up over 30%, maybe as high as 50% at the end of 2009. I have no idea what the actual number is for LA. I know the civil firms around here aren’t doing much better, if not entirely worse.

    What’s beginning to get a little unnerving for me is that it seems there is little, if any, discussion on this in the academic realm. I dont know.

    #170110

    nca
    Participant

    It doesn’t make me feel better, sorry to hear that.

    #170109

    Steve_White
    Participant

    I have kept in contact with several classmates still in school. I have asked them on numerous occasions what the faculty is discussing and what they are doing to help students plan for post graduation. There is very little to no talk on this subject.
    When I was graduating in 08 after the housing meltdown before the credit crisis they were dancing around the subject of the economy then. I told my friends to ask question and the faculties(even if behind closed doors) advice on how to find a job, whatever the job may be and how it relates to LA work.

    I can understand why faculties wouldn’t want to discuss this. especially with first and second year students. You don’t want to scare them away. I mean enrollment over the last 10 years for LA has been good no??

    Anyways i think it should be discussed more with upper and graduating classes. Summers off are a great time for students to find a subject/hobbie/employment that can support their landscape architecture goals.

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