BT&P

Market Update: Sydney Architecture & Interior Design, October 2021

12th October 2021 / Market Updates

Overview: are we there yet?

Wow, what a ride it has been over the last few months, but hopefully the light at the end of tunnel is within touching distance, as we edge closer the magical 80% double vaxxed figure in NSW and restrictions are beginning to ease.

Photo: Jesse Hammer

It’s been a really interesting time seeing how the market has traveled through this 2021 lock-down and how studios and staff have coped with the transition to working remotely for such an extended period. Overall, the sentiment and activity has remained very positive during the outbreak of the Delta strain in Sydney and companies have remained confident about their workflow and hiring intentions.

There are a number of factors that seem to significantly contributing to the continuing positive job market and resulting Candidate shortages a few of which I have considered below:

Photo: Andy Wang
  1. Confidence and workflow remain high:

When speaking to our client base, it is apparent that this lock-down (apart from maybe 1-2 weeks at the start whilst companies got themselves sorted with remote working again!) did not really impact the positive sentiment in the market. Even with some construction sites being shut down or restricted for a short period of time, there was a general confidence in the vaccination roll out that meant projects kept moving and new projects continued to get the green light.

  1. Immigration:

With no new talent arriving on either a Student Visa, a Graduate Visa, a Working Holiday Visa or a Sponsorship Visa (or any other relevant Visas!), this has had an incredible impact on the available Candidate pool. Nowhere is this lack of Candidates being felt more harshly than in Sydney, having always relied heavily on this transient work force to fill both short term and more strategic roles, more so than other states.

Architecture and Interior Design have both been under skilled in Australia for years and this is why companies who can, will sponsor overseas talent. The trickle-down effect of no one coming into the country has impacted all Clients from 200 people, large design firms to one-person studios. Of particular note is the impact this has had on short term assignments – few people are immediately available to pick up 3 month’s work which would have previously suited a working holiday maker perfectly.

Photo: Copernico
  1. Lock-down impacted the ‘passive’ market

Many candidates that had been passively looking, pre-lockdown, understandably, decided to put their ‘cue in the rack’ and stop their search, waiting for conditions to become more favourable to find their ideal role. Having spoken to numerous Candidates over the last few months, it is clear many would prefer to consider new options when they can more easily meet with a practice in person and get a feel for the studio, the environment and culture.

Photo: Sigmund
  1. Remote on-boarding concerns

A number of Candidates have expressed a concern that if they were to move in lock-down, then it would mean going through a remote on- boarding process. There were also concerns that candidates moving during a pandemic might put themselves in firing line if the pandemic situation became worse or the market softened (Last in, First out). That said, we would hasten to add we have found many firms have and do handle remote on-boarding exceptionally well – however, it is certainly a contributing factor to some when considering making a move.

  1. The Design and Building Practitioners Act (2020)

The implementation of the Design and Building Practitioners Act in June 2020 has had a definite impact on the demand for technical strong Architects and Documentors, in both Architectural and Interior Designer industries. As companies have been forced to take on more responsibility for the drawings they create though the design process, there has been increased demand for accurate construction drawings and those that can produce them with limited supervision. Again another factor into why we are seeing a greater pressure on the existing Candidate availability.

Generally speaking, as more and more companies return to their offices, we are anticipating that new job opportunities will increase, continuing to be a good time for Candidates to be looking for new opportunities in the market.

Photo: Christine Aflak

Architecture

Over the last few months, we have seen demand across the board for Candidates of all levels in Architecture but there has been overwhelming demand for Project Architects at the seven years plus experience level, those capable of taking a project and running with it. Good mid-level Architects with Revit experience have also been readily snapped up as have strong technical skilled Documentors with Revit experience (see point 5 above!).

In regards to sectors, interestingly multi-unit residential and mixed-use projects are still driving the demand for candidates. Also, the high-end single residential market has been busy and providing opportunities for candidates at more senior level.

Industrial, Educational, Defence and Commercial markets have also remained very strong through lock-down 2.0, which has therefore created a fairly broad range of opportunities for project typologies for Candidates to consider.

Photo: Liam Drinan

Interior Design

It would be fair to say that the interiors industry has been more of roller-coaster ride over the last couple of months! Initially, when Sydney went into lockdown, there was a slight slowdown in the number of new roles coming through and a little bit of caution, as retail and hospitality venues were shut down.  However, as the plan was relayed of how Sydney would be exiting lockdown through the vaccination roll-out, general confidence returned and the job opportunity tap was quickly turned back on again!

The high-end residential market that had been busy since mid-2020, has not shown any signs of slowing thus far as the focus on the home still seems reigns supreme for many.

The interesting one for us is the workplace market, this sector began to pick up at the start of 2021 and has continued all year, despite lockdown. This has created a large variety of roles for designers, as the workplace market tends to be one of our largest markets. However one particular common thread is the noticeable demand for Interior Designers and Documentors skilled in REVIT. Seems like Interiors is really catching up on the REVIT front!

Over the last month or so the Hospitality and Retail markets have also picked up and we have seen a very solid demand in these sectors for good mid-level candidates with a minimum of 3 years’ experience.

Photo: Austin Distel

Returning to the office

Over the last couple of months we have been having more and more conversations with Clients about returning to the office and what that will mean for hiring new staff. The consensus from all the Clients we have spoken to, is that there is a general expectation that their staff and new additions will be fully vaccinated (where possible and in accordance with government and health orders). How this will be navigated in each office is still the subject of much discussion and no doubt will continue to be so for a little while.

Certainly, this is uncharted territory for us as an agency supplying candidates, just as it is for our Clients and Candidates. Rest assured will we work hard to best support the Architectural and Interior Design industries (as we have always done!) by working with their individual needs, whilst monitoring the latest health advice.

Hopefully it won’t be long before we are back to meeting Candidates and Clients in person and as we move towards greater freedoms and relaxing of restrictions, may we thank our valued Clients and Candidates for their unwavering support during all of the lock-downs. Who knows, maybe and very hopefully, this will be our last.

So let’s enjoy the rest of 2021 and get back to it!

Jamie Keay

Partner

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