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How Will Brexit Affect Recruitment in Architecture?

With a growing number of British architecture projects being postponed or cancelled and most EU architects thinking about leaving the country since the referendum, Brexit is already having a negative impact on the architecture sector in the UK.

A recent report by the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) reveals major concerns about an ongoing lack of transparency on Britain’s future relationship with the EU. Global by Design 2018, the most detailed survey of architects on the subject of Brexit, gives insights into the key trends and priorities facing the profession.

The number of EU architects who have considered leaving Britain since Brexit has increased from 40% last year to 60% in 2018. This has caused concerns about recruitment in architecture now and in the future.

In response to these concerns, the report recommended a post-referendum immigration system that continues to allow UK enterprises to access stellar architecture talent from the EU and across the globe. This would include ongoing mutual recognition of architect qualifications with the EU.

In a recent panel on the subject, Richard Keating of architecture firm Orms said that 80% of his workforce was from outside the UK, and expressed concern that his firm’s ability to access talent from outside the country would be affected. In other firms across the country, employee morale, talent recruitment, and the visa application process have become urgent questions.

Panel delegates confirmed that recruitment in architecture is at risk. Arup Associates director Jo Wright said that an important senior staff member had left the firm immediately after the referendum. Chris Hartiss, director of Squire & Partners, said that there was an atmosphere of uncertainty that was all-pervasive at both professional and corporate levels.

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Bespoke Careers representative Lindsay Urquhart said that during the 12 months following Brexit, her company had seen a reduction of 39% in the number of people applying to work in Britain. She blamed the trend on different factors, from jobseekers feeling unwelcome in the UK to the drop in the value of the pound and strength of the economies in Anglophone countries such as Australia and New Zealand.

The panel agreed that another major hurdle in recruiting staff was obtaining visas for overseas applicants. The delegates said that they found the bureaucracy, high costs, and unreasonable delays in securing paperwork to be extremely frustrating.

Another Bespoke Careers representative, Leo Pemberton, said that while overseas professionals still want to work in Britain, the high cost of sponsorship deters many firms. The £55,000 minimum salary threshold for a Tier 2 visa does not make sense for architecture firms, and delegates commented that there appeared to be no government interest in keeping creative industries going.

Jo Bacon, Allies and Morrison partner, agreed. She pointed out that the visa application and approval process was too overwhelming for the people involved and expressed concern that London’s reputation for creativity and design was going to suffer. The delegates said that the visa issue was a bigger problem for creative fields because their financial clout was more limited, unlike law firms and investment banks.

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