Architect Magazine released their 2010 salary survey last week and as you can imagine 2009 was not a good year for the architecture industry. Firms of all sizes were in survival mode, doing what ever they could to stay afloat. No surprising, the most widely used tool was the lay-off. In fact, the Architect Magazine article quotes Kermit Baker, Chief Economist of the AIA: “Our estimates are that 25% of the positions at architectural firms were lost since the middle of 2008”.

Some of the highlights from the article are:

•  Median salary fell from $88,800.00 to $80,900.00
•  68% of the firms surveyed made changes of some sort last year
•  There was a slight increase in bonus’ correlating to smaller base salaries

Click here to read the article.

What I glean from the article is good news, the worst may be over. The industry is taking its cautious next steps. I also think it warns the industry of a bigger issue on the horizon, a looming possible mass exodus of talent from the architectural ranks. The article states that most of the lay-offs were concentrated in the lower salary spectrum. This young talent cannot wait forever for the industry to recover and will start to leave for greener pastures. If this happens, and a talent gap is created, it will be a blow to the industry not realized for another decade.

It will also be history repeating itself.

The recession of the 1990’s created a talent gap as young architectural talent left the industry due to lack of work. As the industry recovered, grew and thrived this talent gap became more obvious. While the work younger staff does, mainly drawings can be outsourced to other firms or even done by a Project Manager or Sr. Project Manager, the business development, client management and other “higher function” skills are unique to each firm.

As Project Managers promoted into the Associate and Principal roles the talent gap became evident. Firms did not have a strong pool of trained talent ready to promote into the Project Manager and Design Manager positions.

So what is the fix? While one fix does not fit all needs one idea might be the AIA. The group is uniquely poised to help firms fill the talent gap. Not through hiring but through training. The AIA’s continuing education program is a great forum to train the industry on firm management, business development and other important aspects of the business of architecture. I know that this is already a part of the wonderful curriculum the AIA puts together, I just wonder if there is a bigger idea there. Some way to either train leadership how to mentor and train younger staff or provide individual training to firms.

Of course this is just my opinion. I would love to hear others. Whether we are creating a new talent gap with this recession or not, we are still working through the last one. I know the attitude of the firm leaders I work with is “all ideas are welcome”.