Melbourne Market Update – Autumn 2016


Having launched into 2016 on the same trajectory in which 2015 finished, things are looking strong across the board for 2016. Why then when I read the news does it not feel the same?

It seems par for the course these days that there is no end to media reports that span caution right through to predictions of an economic melt down, yet the Architecture and Design sectors continue to strengthen. No one can say if the disaster will come in the form of the next financial crisis, property slump or downturn in China, and to be honest, if any of these happen, different commentators anticipate different outcomes as a result. I will leave this to smarter minds than my own and say simply that it is always best to make hay when the sun shines, and not get caught up in things outside of your own control.

A highlight to us of these strong activity levels in the industry is based on the breadth of project sectors that we are currently recruiting for. A quick look across our current positions shows our clients are working on projects in the following sectors: aged care, apartments (high-rise), apartments (medium density), townhouses, high-end residential, education, retail, hotels (locally and offshore – architecture and interiors), aquatic centres, sports facilities (locally and offshore), cultural, rail and broader infrastructure, commercial, bar and restaurant interiors, retail interiors, health, and several large mixed use projects with multi faceted elements. Added to this range is also a diversity of locations, with our clients working on projects spread across New Zealand, Hong Kong, Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore, Europe, the Middle East and the USA.

This diversity of projects, along with the large scale of many of them paint a very positive picture in comparison to 3 years ago when the market  was largely focused around the apartment and residential sectors being the prime driver of project activity.

This volume of work continues to create strong numbers of opportunities for experienced professionals at all levels, with demand particularly high for those with Revit exposure and new opportunities being created on a daily basis for Architects, Technicians and Interior Designers with Revit skills and experience. To a lesser degree ArchiCAD based software demands are also featuring heavily.

This ongoing shortage of Revit skills has become a major consideration in the recruitment process, and whilst many firms are committed to training and developing Revit capabilities in house, there is less inclination to bring a new recruit into the studio without them bringing extensive Revit experience. Whilst this is understandable, we have seen instances where good people with great experience have missed out on an otherwise ideal role – purely due to lack of willingness to train a new recruit in Revit.

As the market continues in its current high demand mode, greater consideration when recruiting will need to be given to the actual skills and less to the software background of the applicant.

Paradoxically, we have also seen an increase in AutoCAD roles as a result of firms not being able to recruit to desired Revit levels, however we are far from calling this a return to the “vinyl album” just yet.

We are also seeing a mass shortage of those with mid-level experience (particularly seen within the Interiors market); this may be due to Graduates being unable to find employment through the 2012/13 downturn, and seeking roles in other sectors. Fast-forward 4 years; we are now lacking those with intermediate skill sets. As a confirmation of this one esteemed industry source has suggested that there are currently only a handful of 2011 Graduate Interior Designers working within their chosen field.

With this said, there are currently some really strong new opportunities being created with studios being more open to people with lesser experience, so it is particularly important in this current market that anyone who is attending interviews should make sure their folio best represents the broadest range of skills and project involvement, as the employer is more likely to have an open mind as to the type of role you could be considered for.

This market has also created a range of strategic roles within practices who are looking to strengthen their key senior ranks with very specific skills and areas of specialisation. These are roles that are rarely advertised in the broader market and we have seen some outstanding career opportunities arise as a result over the past 12 months.

In regard to rates and salary movements, we are entering a market where employee expectations may differ to the employer when it comes to mid year reviews, particularly in environments where annual increases over the past few years may have been only at CPI. Pressure is starting to mount from the job seekers perspective, with many indicating a jump in salary as a primary driver in their desire to find a new role.

This then means that managing the review process of existing staff in line with salary expectations of new hires can create parity issues, and a realistic approach is needed by both job seekers and employers as we progress into the middle of the year.

With the continued strength of the market, we have seen the proportion of salaried roles balanced with a stream of contract opportunities, both in Architectural and Interior Design markets, so from a job hunters perspective there is a cross section of long term opportunities for those who want them, along with well remunerated contract roles that will generally run longer term based on continued workflow.

The high levels of new positions coming through daily, teamed with the wide spread of project sectors that are currently busy, is keeping us upbeat about what the next 12 months have to hold.

Bruce Whetters

Group Director – BT&P Melbourne

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