A RECENT report by the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) has revealed that our industry is in danger of becoming a profession only accessible to the wealthiest of students.
With increasing student fees and the poor economic climate, students from lower income backgrounds are becoming increasingly deterred.
The report, which looked into the earnings of students in the year 2011/2012, aimed to establish an understanding of the remuneration given for contribution to the profession during training years to help inform future employment guidance for the industry.
Architecture students require a working placement to progress with their education. I know a number of students have faced serious difficulty when looking for placements, leading to a proportion having no option but to work for free. A large percentage of students also currently head south to find a position, this will lead to a gap in skilled professionals in our region once the recession is over.
Despite the perception given by the media, architecture is generally not a well-paid profession and, in the state of the current economic climate, it is not surprising that student earnings are low. However, out of all 93% of placements that happened in the architectural industry, only 11% were unpaid.
Student placements, although training positions, are proper jobs and, as an industry, we have no excuse for not paying them correctly and at least to minimum wage. By not doing so, the industry falls foul of its legal obligations and its moral duties.
Training to be an architect takes a minimum of seven years: this is a big commitment and must be supported by the industry properly if there is to be a future for architecture in the UK.
The results of the report also seem to show that female students are being discriminated against, with average male earnings 3% higher than that of female colleagues. Currently, only 20% of architects are women. We must ensure that girls are encouraged, rather than discouraged by discrimination at the early stages of their careers, to improve this.
After all, our buildings and spaces are used by both sexes equally, so does it not make sense that we get a well-rounded view from those who design them? Many industry figures have spoken about this in the past and these figures prove that we still have a lot to do to help our industry step away from its old boys’ club image.
I hope that the RIBA will clamp down on employers that do this and make a stand for what is right: shaping our industry into the best it can be going forward.
:: Christine Thornley, associate director of Newcastle-based Mackellar Architecture