"The climate is not as generous this year because there's so much uncertainty. Bonuses are generally down", says Simon Jenkins, HR director at quantity surveyor Gardiner & Theobald. But he adds: "It has become harder in the past couple of years to find good graduates, so we've had to pay them a bit more. There are fewer people going into university wanting to be QSs, so we're trying to expand our recruitment into schools."
Charles Johnston, senior partner with cost consultant MDA, reports similar problems, and says his firm has started recruiting maths and geography graduates.
Big pay rises for junior architects, interior designers, space planners and landscape architects …
One caveat with all the figures is that they only provide average salaries, so there are some highly paid individuals who don't show up. For example, consultants with experience and understanding of the mind-boggling intricacies of PFI contracts are in demand and thin on the ground, so they are receiving tempting offers from rival firms.
Johnston says there's a particular lack of quantity surveyors in their early 30s, and the same applies to engineers. This is according to Charles McBeath, a director of consulting engineer Whitby Bird & Partners, who blames the shortage on graduate recruitment cutbacks during the last recession. This time around, McBeath says, the slowdown isn't hitting most of the country too hard: "The regions are quite busy, but it's easy to find good people in London."
The QS partner’s pay is down an average of 1.4% – this is the second-biggest drop in any category
In fact, the corporate downturn is making it easier for firms like Whitby Bird to persuade engineering graduates to resist the lure of the City and stick to their chosen profession. McBeath says: "People are becoming much more aware that, as an engineer, you are not badly rewarded. City pay is very hard to compete with, and it was one of the reasons why it was hard for us to recruit graduates. But now, there will be the odd superlative candidate who decides to stick to engineering – which, of course, is what you want."
John Assael, managing director of Assael Architecture, is generous about the pay rises junior architects have received. He says: "I think it's fantastic that students and young architects are forcing employers to pay them properly." He proudly states that nobody in his central London practice is paid less than £20,000 per year, and some are paid £100,000. He says: "We recently lost out to an architect who bid half as much as we did for a £30m residential project in Docklands – even though we were bidding 20% less than standard fees. I bet that architect earns £20,000 and pays his students £10,000."
Annie’s still getting used to having so much disposable income. It seems like only yesterday she was an impoverished student starving in a garret of her own design and slaving away for peanuts in a north London practice. But she qualified a year ago and now she’s earning a decent salary – and her boss gave her a £4000 rise for Christmas. Now that students’ pay has also gone up so much, she delights in telling her young colleagues that they’ve got it easy, and things were a lot harder when she were a lass.
Peter’s having a bad year. He heads the Leeds office of a medium-sized QS firm, and profit’s holding up well. But it’s hard to attract graduates, and he’s paranoid about rivals poaching his staff – so they get big pay rises, and he gets none. That conservatory he was planning to build will have to stay on hold for another year …
This time last year, Gary was heading for a first-class degree in engineering and weighing up two job offers: one from an American investment bank in the City of London, the other from a successful consulting engineer. Choosing job security over a big salary, he went for the engineer. He reckons he made the right choice – a guy in his year who went to work in the City has just been laid off. If Gary does well, he could be earning big bucks in the London office in two years. But he quite fancies staying in the firm’s East Midlands office, where he reckons there’s better quality of life – and cheaper beer.