Industry spotlight on design and architecture
The rebuilding of Christchurch after the devastating earthquakes of 2011 put New Zealand’s design and architecture industry in the spotlight. With the country experiencing its largest annual population increase this year, the industry will also play a vital role ensuring our cities are designed with the future in mind.  

The latest data from SEEK Employment Trends show that while job ads for design and architecture remained at the same level in November as the same time last year, key areas of the industry such as landscape architecture, interior design and architecture are on the rise. The average advertised salary across the industry was $81,267.

Competition for talent

Recent figures from Statistics New Zealand show the population has reached 4.69 million, which represents an increase of 97,300 in the year to 30 June. This is the country’s largest annual growth rate. Lee Tyrrell, Director of recruitment firm Franklin Smith, says the growing population and the boom in construction is creating greater demand for design and architecture talent. “There’s more and more work out there and not enough people to keep up with it,” he says.

Jane Spiers, Associate, People and Development, at Warren and Mahoney Architects in Auckland, agrees the market is experiencing a shortage of candidates due to the construction boom. “This is especially the case for our Auckland office,” she explains.

Spiers adds that competition for talent in design and architecture comes from various places. “Candidates have a lot of opportunity not only in professional services,” she explains. “We're competing against companies that are vastly different to who we are. There are design and build companies in the construction sector, consultancy firms and engineering firms who are also doing architecture. It's a very diverse field where candidates have options and we need to compete.”

Warren and Mahoney Architects has six offices across New Zealand and Australia and employs approximately 260 people. Its portfolio includes the transformation of the National Library of New Zealand, the Wellington Airport and the design of the New Zealand International Convention Centre, which is due for completion in 2018.

Warren and Mahoney was also part of the team selected to re-plan the central city of Christchurch after the devastating earthquakes of 2011. The award-winning Christchurch Blueprint, as it was called, included the master planning for the central city. This was completed in approximately 75 days to meet commitments made by government to the people of Christchurch City. It involved three essential phases - information gathering, design and documentation – and each phase took approximately 25 days.

The latest data from SEEK shows job ads for landscape architecture increased by 75% year-on-year in November. “The landscape industry is a reasonably niche market,” he says. “The talent is of high quality but we just need more of it.” Tyrell also notes that the rebuilding of Christchurch has also offered unprecedented opportunities to redesign the landscape of the city, which has likely contributed to the number of job ads on offer.

Although job ads for urban design and planning experienced a year-on-year decline of 22%, Tyrell notes demands remains solid

Designing from outside and within

While experts say landscape architecture is in demand, there is also a growing need to focus on the quality of interior environments – especially the places we work. Workplace design can have an impact on employee productivity and engagement and Spiers says candidates with workplace design experience are in particular demand.

“Within interior architecture, most of our projects are in workplace design,” she says. “There’s a real science behind it and a lot more focus is being placed on designing spaces to promote productivity and wellbeing. It's quite different to designing hospitality spaces.  We try to find candidates with some experience in the areas that we specialise in.”

SEEK job ads for interior design increased by 7% year-on-year. “This is where some of the soft skills are valuable,” explains Tyrrell. “Designers need to understand how people behave and how they interact within a space.”

Job ads for architecture roles also experienced year-on-year growth in November, rising by 4%. Tyrrell explains New Zealand’s burgeoning construction industry is having an impact on demand for architects, especially in Auckland. The 2016 National Construction Pipeline Report, prepared by the Building Research Association of New Zealand and construction industry consultancy Pacifecon, shows that Auckland is expected to dominate construction work in the country over the next six years as it works to bridge the gap between growing population and housing demand.

The design and architecture industry will continue to play a vital role in shaping the future of New Zealand. “We expect demand for talent to remain strong,” says Tyrrell.