Architects feel optimistic about future workloads with Northern practices looking to recruit more staff – RIBA Future Trends Survey May 2018

The RIBA Future Trends Workload Index continued its positive trend this month, rising to +24 in May 2018, up from +13 in April.

In terms of geographical analysis, practices in London continue to be the most pessimistic about medium term workloads, but with a balance figure of +16 London practices have at least returned to positive territory and on balance believe that workloads will increase in the medium term.

The balance figure in the Midlands and East Anglia was +18, in the North of England +46, in the South of England +24 and in Wales and the West +28. Practices in Scotland were somewhat more cautious, returning a balance figure of +17. It is the northern powerhouse region that remains most upbeat.

In terms of practice size, large practices (51+ staff) returned a workload balance figure of +80, for medium-sized practices (11 – 50 staff) the balance figure was +25, and for small practices (1 – 10 staff) the balance figure was +23.

The private housing sector workload forecast rose to +22, the commercial sector rose to +11 and the public sector rose up to +3: all moved in a positive direction this month. Only the community sector workload forecast saw a negative movement, falling to +3 in May 2018 down from +7 in April.

There was also a sizeable jump in the RIBA Future Trends Staffing Index this month, up significantly to +12 in May 2018 compared with +1 in April. The staffing forecast for large practices (51+ staff) was +80 in May, for medium-sized practices (11 – 50 staff) it was +18 and small practices (1 – 10 staff) it was +9.

Mirroring the Workload Index, practices in the North of England (balance figure +23) were the most optimistic about being able to take on more staff over the next quarter, whereas London practices (balance figure +3) do not anticipate a significant recruitment drive.

Our practices report that they are currently employing 12% fewer students (year out or post part 2) than at the same time last year. Although it is not yet clear whether this is a developing trend, nor whether it relates to a dip in the number of suitable candidates, or just greater caution on the part of employers.

RIBA Executive Director Members, Adrian Dobson, said:

“Commentary received from our participating practices continues to suggest a reasonably steady work flow and the overall mood music remains cautiously optimistic, but many practices report fee levels are still under pressure because of the highly competitive market for our services.”

“A small number of correspondents report difficulties in recruiting staff, but this does not appear to be a widespread problem at present, suggesting a fairly balanced employment market for salaried architects”