Architectural practices are being urged to maintain their skills base as firms are forced to slash workers to survive the global financial crisis.

At least 1,000 Melbourne-based architects have lost their jobs and firms in Sydney are working four-day weeks to cut costs, Australian Institute of Architects’ president, Howard Tanner told Architecture & Design.

“Economic pressures are forcing practices right across Australia to reduce staff to keep their heads above water,” he said.

While architects in the education, hospital and residential markets will be cushioned as government stimulus packages get underway, Tanner said that commercial architects will be the hardest hit.

“Commercial workers will have to find work in other areas or expand their skills base over the downturn... But any experience will not often be through paid work,” he said. 

He said students or those nearing the end of their studies should also look at options to extend their studies. 

“It will be very difficult for people coming out of university to find suitable employment,” he said. “Those who have recently entered the industry should also look at other options and have an eye on what direction they would like to be in the future.”

As the industry is hit hard by redundancies, Tanner said government stimulus packages will provide “an abundance” of work from early May 2009.

“It is so important skilled workers are employed for these Rudd projects to ensure good strategic planning is done now and construction is well thought out for the future,” he said.

According to Tanner, the industry will suffer and specialist firms will lose their reputation if skilled workers are cut for short-term financial benefits.

“Firms need to make sure staff are available for when the market recovers,” he said. “They need to keep the door open for the future.”