“We are seeking someone with a Bachelor of Architecture with two years of experience. Knowledge of Revit, Vray, Adobe and Microsoft. Knowledge of RNE and Municipal documentation. Immediate availability”- Typical Architecture Job Listing.
Are newly graduated Architects “employable” people according to the requirements of the current market? And are these the right requirements?
Being able to call yourself an architect after five or more years of early mornings, a heavy workload, thesis, etc. is a great accomplishment and satisfaction for those who have achieved it. After the celebrations, the family photo and catching up on the missed sleep due to studying, it is time to face reality: to look for a job. One would imagine that as architecture is considered one of the most demanding careers, which would explain why it is also known as “architorture”, what comes next shouldn´t mean more suffering.
However, reality strikes. Soon one realizes that there is a gap between what was learned in university and the requirements of most architecture firms, construction companies, real estate developers and other sectors in which an architect can play a role. That’s how looking for a job becomes a complex task in which it no longer matters if you passed a workshop with the best grades or if you had an excellent result on your thesis.
Five years are not enough for a person to dive into the world of architecture. They learn a little of everything and nothing at once: there just isn’t enough time. The new students of architecture arrive in an unknown world, in which they must face for the first time the concepts of space, scale, among others. Then, as they learn about the history of architecture, urbanism, construction methods and, above all and mainly, learn to design, a capacity that falls on the workshop course, the one that “matters most”, the one that “makes you an Architect”.
As a student, you rarely question your training, especially in the early years. By not knowing so much about architecture yet, the student doesn´t have a notion of what knowledge is lacking or what knowledge they need to reinforce in order to graduate as an architect or an employable architect, at least. The period of university studies is, to a certain extent, a bubble in which buildings do not fall without a thought out structure, the word budget does not appear; the emergency stairs, building capacity, and disabled access doesn´t matter, especially if they “muddy” the design. During the studies, the National Building Regulations practically do not appear.
There is a group of architects, especially academics, who postulate that this isolation of certain aspects of reality is important because the university is where you “learn to think.” They point out that in order to develop creativity and explore ideas and concepts beyond conventional ones, architecture students should not be subjected to certain rules and regulations, especially in the first years. As they say, there are certain things that are learned just “on the field.” That is why now, in most Architecture faculties, pre-professional internships are mandatory. Internships are presented as a window to reality, in which the student experiences the work and rhythm of an office, gains experience and at the same time gets to enrich his Curriculum Vitae (CV). However, having completed an internship does not necessarily ensure that one becomes familiar with certain activities such as making a space, filling out a SBF (Single Building Form), completing a Unit Value Table, etc.
What you can learn by doing an internship depends very much on which place you choose, or rather, on which place accepted you; how much work they entrust to you as an intern and, finally, the accompaniment of a professional who takes the time and work to guide you and explain what you do not know. There are students who can spend six months doing internships in the most recognized firms and only dedicate themselves to making models, folding plans and developing one or another part of a project, as long as it is not something too complex or important. Therefore, allowing only pre-professional internships to be responsible for giving that necessary “dose of reality” is something left to chance.
Reviewing the profile of the graduate, we can highly creative, innovative, humanist-based entrepreneurs with ethical and moral values. We should acknowledge that there are some faculties that also offer training from a business and management perspective. However, the courses that provide this training are usually elective and unattractive to people who have chosen a career linked to creativity. In the end, any course that is not a workshop will not be taken with enough rigor or dedication since “nothing matters more than a workshop.”
And so, we find ourselves with new architects that come to the labor market with mainly design oriented training and with the illusion of finally projecting their work in the real world, even if it is just a bathroom. The portfolio is prepared, a CV is assembled including all the activities that have been done so far, including sports and personal interests to “fill in space” and you go and try your luck. If it is not by recommendation or contact, you venture to look for adverts and see if your profile fits some of them. There are adverts in which from the beginning you are asked about defined design software.
In other words, if you do not know how to use this software, do not send your CV, because you will not pass the first filter. What is being evaluated then? The capabilities of a person? or their software knowledge? Imagine that the applicant passes the first filter and arrives for the interview. After a courteous first exchange of words, the applicant will show their portfolio to the potential employer. The conversation will be reduced to questions about the software that were used to make the views and diagrams, if they were done alone or with help, what workflow was used to achieve the visual style, etc. Finally, the potential employer will end up showing more interest in the final result than to the architectural proposal or to the ideas that inspired the project.
It is true that architects must know their work tools. Nobody draws plans by hand anymore, so it is inevitable that you have to know at least one of the computer design software. In addition, today technology is advancing by leaps and bounds and there are increasingly more software options to create plans, 3d, renders, postproduction, graphics, etc., that are each time progressively more specialized and complex. Thus, it would seem that during the formative stage time spent on watching internet tutorials is better to help master software than reading a book of the discipline itself. It is contradictory that architects, who do not manage other software besides Autocad, ask their workers to know and ideally master a long list of software, especially 3d modeling and rendering. It would appear then that the hiring of personnel is done to supplement their lack of knowledge of software without considering the other capacities of the worker that could mean a great contribution to the firm or company.
On the other hand, the offices that look for the so-called “junior architects,” besides wanting “computer monsters”, paradoxically look for people who have more than a year of work experience even when they have just graduated. In addition, they must know about documentary procedures and they must have supervised projects, a very important feature but one that can hardly be performed as an intern or as a recent graduate. There are architects who can have up to three years of work experience and have never supervised a project in a sustained manner because they are not given the opportunity to do so the first time.
It is understandable that one wants to entrust such a responsibility to people with experience, but it is necessary that there are offices and people who are willing to guide the recent graduate by entrusting them with things that he may not have mastered but for which he has capacity and that are also necessary for him to learn so as to continue to educate themselves. In addition, you have to be very lucky to be hired by an office that genuinely considers the opinion of an inexperienced architect and that is valued. While universities promote the exchange of ideas, teamwork and the joint search for better solutions for a project, in the first years of work life that usually does not happen. Suggestions that go against those set by the Chief Architect are not usually welcome: “it is prohibited to injure the ego of an Architect.”
The training of an Architect is a complex task that does not end during the years of university studies. Professional internships, personal motivation and time, a lot of time, are those that will continue to train an architect. It is only after years of accumulated experience that architects that are around fifty years of age will be called “Young Architects.” It is true that at the beginning of the career it is necessary to learn the trade and that, inevitably, a more technical rather than creative job must be done.
That is why, on the one hand, universities should be aware of shaping not only great designer and theoretical architects for the long-term, but architects that are employable from the beginning of their professional lives. On the other hand, offices should seek the full integration of new architects to the professional practice and not confine them to be caddists or modelers during their first years of work since for this, they could hire specialized people who do not need the integral formation of an architect