The Australian Institute of Architects has urged the Federal Government to extend subsidies afforded to the employers of trainees and apprentices to those who employ architecture graduates, in an attempt to support those who have seen their employment opportunities significantly decrease in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Victorian Chapter President Bill Krotiris describes the decision to extend these subsidies to architectural practices as a ‘no-brainer’ for the Morrison Government, if they decide to venture down the path.
“A national survey of our members at the beginning of last year found that nearly one-third of respondents (27.27%) had been forced to lay off or stand down staff,” he says.
“The Institute has taken an evidence-based approach to put forward policy solutions to what is a worsening problem in our profession that will have adverse flow-on impacts to the wider building and construction sector, as well as the communities we serve.
“Our modelling of a subsidy equivalent to that currently offered for apprentices and trainees to employ the 1,300 Master of Architecture graduates from 2020 would generate a return on investment by the end of the first year of 132%, excluding savings from avoiding reliance on unemployment benefits.
“It’s a ‘no-brainer’, and we are only seeking it for two years to get the 2020 graduates who were heavily impacted by Covid-19 directly into working alongside Architects in practice.”
The plight of architecture graduates was recently highlighted by one recent graduate Kushagra Jhurani, who recently stood in the centre of Melbourne CBD with a placard seeking employment, highlighting the dire situation currently faced by up and coming architects.
“Our Institute has taken a comprehensive proposal to subsidise the employment of graduates to the Federal Government, engaging directly with the Department of Education Skills and Employment, promoting it in our 2021 Federal Pre-Budget submission, and sending it to relevant Federal Ministers,” Krotiris says.
“It’s heartbreaking to see the image of this young person, while, at the same thinking of all of these graduates whose potential contribution to a future sustainable, safe and high-quality built environment across our country in the cities, suburbs and the regions could be lost.
“We call on Federal and State and Territory governments to urgently address this crisis”.
Krotiris’ native Victoria has been significantly impacted by the pandemic, with 43 percent of all master’s Graduates of Architecture emanating from Victorian universities. The AIA believes the future of the profession will be in good hands due to the sheer number of graduates from the southern state, but is worried about the immediate future for these architects.
Krotiris is quick to point out the rigorous learning and practical experience journey established under the national framework of the Architect Accreditation Council of Australia, that requires five years of full-time bachelor and master’s degree studies followed by a minimum of 3,300 hours of supervised employment, log-book requirements, and/oral and written exams administered by a State Architects Registration Board.
“That’s typically a seven to eight-year journey, often longer given project opportunities afforded by small to large scale architectural practices. Our graduates often take up to five years of supervised employment before they can sit the Boards’ exams and finally attain registration,” he says.
The AIA supports architects within the early stages of their careers, through their PALS (practice of architecture learning series) program, which supports the professional development of graduates seeking to sit the States’ and Territories’ Board exams. While these measures are of great help to architects of minimal experience, those that employ these particular architects are not given the same subsidies as those with trades and other certifications, which makes it increasingly difficult to hire these graduates without financial assistance, especially with the pandemic still causing economic strain.