Youth wins the day in this year's Hays Montrose/Building Consultants' Salary Guide, with the industry throwing money at graduates in an attempt to attract the best people.
Graduates are the big winners of the 2001 hays Montrose/Building Consultants' Salary Guide. Inflationary pay rises are simply being scoffed at as firms scramble to compete for the brightest young people.

Graduate planners and geotech engineers are most in demand – their pay has soared 19% in the past year. Next come building surveyors with an HND and two years' experience, who can expect 16.6% more than this time last year.

Also riding high are architectural technicians, whose salary has grown 12% in the past year. Architects, meanwhile, have seen pay rises in the region of 8%.

In quantity surveying, rises for top-level personnel have been held back, with the average rises for partners and associates only in line with inflation. But graduate surveyors have seen their starting salaries shoot up 11.5% to about £15,000. Those with one or two years' experience should also be making close to £18,000 (up 14%) or about £21,000 in London.

The pattern is similar within engineering, with graduates receiving the biggest pay increases (up 13-19%) as the industry struggles to attract better calibre students.

Oscar Faber's associate director (electrical) Akhtar Hussain says the rise in salaries is making it harder and harder to recruit the right skills. "Generally, the quality of people is not very good," he says. "It's all to do with the buoyancy of the market; good people are being snapped up quickly or are being held on to by their companies by whatever means." Tim Gilbert, group services manager at architect Broadway Malyan, agrees. He is facing more and more competition for staff from outside traditional architectural practices. "Developers and housing developers are pushing salaries higher.

They require in-house architects to work in teams of one or two and will pay over the odds to get the right person." According to recruitment firm Hays Montrose, salaries are being pushed up by counter-offers: companies are focusing on career development and are willing to pay more to hold on to staff whose merits they know. Gilbert agrees and says the problem of counter-offers has become endemic in architecture.

But others within the industry are sceptical that such counter-offers are at the heart of salary rises. Turner & Townsend's director of project management, Andrew Duncan, comments: "We haven't experienced this. Personally, I think it's one of these myths that recruitment companies like to propagate.

I think the idea is probably generated by them to make the market appear more overheated than it is. The trend for salaries as far as we are concerned has been to increase, but it has not been extraordinary compared with the past two or three years."

Whether you're a graduate or have 10 years' experience behind you, CAD literacy is required for a salary rise. Steve Glands, architectural recruitment consultant with Hays Montrose, says many of his clients are calling for CAD skills across the board.

"Some of our clients even want project managers to have CAD. More clients want senior people to be able to understand and amend CAD drawings; without it they will slow projects down." For partners, the Republic of Ireland is definitely the place to be – the typical salary is £60,000. This is well above the London average of £45,000, which increased by less than general inflation in the past year. Newly qualified architects with CAD experience should stick to the capital, however, where salaries can reach £30,000.

According to Glands, good experience can also be the key to better pay. "Salaries are never decent in architecture. These are professionals, but they're not going to get paid as much as someone in sales. But people with a lot of high-quality experience can get on. I'm not talking some light-scale industrial building out in Essex but something large scale – a retail project or office complex.

Give me a CAD-literate 30-something with a strong technical bias and I'll find them a job today." Ian Hirst, a partner in Abbey Holford Rowe in Huddersfield, confirms that salaries are also on the rise outside the hotspots of London and Ireland. "Here in the north, we're interviewing people on a fairly regular basis, using local newspaper ads in the Yorkshire Post or agencies and we generally have no problem. But the most difficult to recruit is a quality senior technologist."

Hirst's comments are borne out by the figures, which show salaries for architects in the north and Scotland rising steeply – up 10% to £25,875 for those with six years' experience, up 14% to £18,000 for a newly qualified architectural assistant and up 12% to £16,667 for CAD technicians with three years' experience.

Quantity surveyors
Last year's guide found the recruitment problem among QS firms was reaching "crisis point". Thankfully, the situation does not seem to have worsened, with salary increases still high for graduates and in line with inflation for partners and associates (excluding bonuses).

Andrew Duncan, director of project management at Turner & Townsend, says: "Within project management we've recruited 15 over the past year with no great difficulty."

Graduate pay is certainly still heading in a northerly direction, with graduate surveyors' salaries rising a massive 30% in Ireland and 20% in the north of England and Scotland. In all regions, graduates can now expect to earn about £15,000, rather than the £13,000 they were making last year.

Duncan adds: "At a more junior level such as immediate postgraduate, it is certainly true that it's harder to find the right candidates, but within project management we are looking for people in their late 20s with decent experience behind them, and they generally seem to be available." Graham Billin, managing director of cost management at Currie & Brown, says the past year has been very hard for recruitment but feels there could be better times ahead. He says: "It has been difficult to recruit good staff but there appears to be a slackening off, with better quality staff starting to become available.

Certain companies are cutting back on capital expenditure quite dramatically and this is slackening things off in terms of recruitment." Billin also stresses the importance of holding on to good staff.

He adds: "We have generally managed to retain staff quite well and have noticed a certain nervousness among the ones leaving – the last-in-first-out syndrome."

Something strange is happening within the engineering sector. Public bodies are pushing up salaries, leaving private companies struggling to find staff. Catherine Manchett, a senior consultant at Hays Montrose, says: "People like Transport for London are able to pay a lot and are putting private firms out of the running.

Our clients just can't match the salaries, although this is more on the contract side than permanent positions. It's a very strange turnaround." Engineers with any kind of transport experience are among the most sought-after as the government boosts infrastructure work with its 10-year plan. Average pay across the infrastructure sector is up considerably, from 6.5% for senior engineers to 14.6% for graduates.

Salaries for university leavers have increased massively across the full range of engineering sectors this year.

With salaries rising between 13% and 19%, all engineering graduates can now expect starting salaries of £16,000-17,000 rather than £14,000 last year.

Manchett adds: "All graduates may not be of the top grade; we're not necessarily talking top Oxford graduates, but most can get a job now. Salaries have gone up and are a lot more competitive compared with other industries.

A lot of recent graduates are also coming back to engineering after trying something else. I had one lad who had gone into investment banking but after six months came back to what he had graduated in and enjoyed and has re-entered the market place." As was the case last year, newly chartered structural engineers are among the hardest to find. "They're like gold dust and can command good salaries," says Manchett.

At Oscar Faber, the hardest position to fill has been a principal engineer for the mechanical division. Associate director (electrical) Akhtar Hussain says: "It's usually electrical positions that are the problem, but this year it has been a principal engineer for mechanical.

We have spent three to four months looking for the right person. It's experienced people we are looking for, maybe aged between 27 and 36 with a good background and good experience." Manchett adds: "It's not unusual to see people in their mid-20s getting £30k now, especially in the transport and structural sectors where the demand is."

Building surveyors
Building surveyors in their 20s have been some of the hardest to recruit in the past year, as reflected by their rapid salary rises. Those just chartered saw the highest rises from 9.8% in the Midlands to a whopping 26.5% in Ireland. Associates' pay has also risen sharply, up on average by 7.6% nationally to about £33,700 or as high as £38,000 in London. Again it is the partners that are losing out in the basic salary stakes with a national rise of only 0.8%, but of course bonuses are not included in our figures.

The personnel officer at Tuffin Ferraby & Taylor, Francis Frith, says it has been a challenge to recruit building surveyors this year. "It's not been terribly easy, the market for surveyors is very competitive. Finding the right person can be very difficult with the good candidates going very quickly." She agrees with our figures that it is building surveyors in the middle of their careers that are the hardest to find. "Mid-range building surveyors are hard to get hold of.

We can find graduates and people at the top level but it is people in the middle that are the hardest."

WSP's team leader for education, Mike Brill, agrees that finding the right people is the real problem. "All through the market it has been hard to find staff.

Some people are simply pricing themselves out of the market. Pay certainly is moving upward but not as high as some people think. They come in on £36,000 looking for £40,000 and we're not going to pay that unless they are management level." Brill adds: "We're getting a lot of people applying that don't have the experience we are looking for." He also believes that the situation will not improve for some time, "and I say that as I am looking for staff at the moment," he adds.

The hardest jobs to fill in the past year

Give me a CAD-literate, 30-something, with a strong technical bias and I’ll find them a job today
Steve Glands, architectural recruitment consultant, Hays Montrose Most difficult to recruit is a quality senior technologist
Ian Hirst, partner, Abbey Holford Rowe in Huddersfield Project and team leaders, as well as technicians, have been the hardest to find
Tim Gilbert, group services manager, Broadway Malyan At immediate postgraduate level, it is certainly harder to find the right candidates
Andrew Duncan, director of project management, Turner & Townsend Newly chartered structural engineers are like gold dust and can command good salaries
Catherine Manchett, senior consultant, Hays Montrose This year, it has been a principal mechanical engineer’s job that has been the hardest to fill
Akhtar Hussain, associate director (electrical), Oscar Faber