Britain is failing to recruit the best young architects following Brexit and Covid-19

Dan Huckle, Tandem Talent

Dan Huckle from Tandem Talent explores why Britain is failing to recruit the best young architects effectively following Brexit and the global pandemic.

Things are vastly different now. Before the pandemic, we had just hit the button on Brexit. In the architecture industry, major chunks of applications came from mainland European universities. Talent from Denmark, Italy and Spain has been crucial in feeding a lot of the creative industries in this country.

So, Brexit caused a significant decrease in candidates wanting to apply for jobs in the UK, because of the tedious visa process involved.

Then, the industry was hit by the pandemic, which has changed the way people think about their life, work, and everything else.

Fewer candidates applying from abroad

According to UCAS in 2019, there were 3,700 students from the EU who applied to study architecture. This year there have been 1,830.

So, you’ve now got a population of people on the European mainland that don’t want to go through the process of applying to study here, both because of the pandemic and Brexit.

You also have the post-pandemic world and the whole environment around working from home.

People outside the UK are now more likely to stay close to home and their family after completing their studies, instead of applying for jobs in different countries.

Many of these people have just been able to go back to their homes after all the lockdowns and everything else.

The current situation in Ukraine is also bound to have an impact.

Many have now realised life around family and friends at home isn’t that bad. So, we’ve seen a significant decrease in applications from abroad.

Chatting to people in different countries, they don’t feel the UK is as much of an ‘open playground’ as it once was prior to Brexit.

However, I think this will be a short-term issue. I think people will gradually see their friends taking better jobs abroad again, being successful at it – and in time that will change people’s minds.

Of course, Europeans now need a visa to get into Britain, but it’s no different for someone in France than it is for someone from Brazil.

We have effectively closed Britain and opened-up the rest of the world. You could say that eventually we will see more people coming in from further afield.

People were coming here because the jobs were better – and there are still the best jobs and the best firms here. But you look at people that went to study at the top architecture universities in Italy, Rome, Milan and even Florence.

There were fewer jobs in these countries, so architects would look to come and ply their trade in the UK, usually London, where they know they can earn a better salary.

Based on our current applications, we are still seeing candidates from Italy, Greece and Turkey (so these candidates are still applying), but our numbers are down at least 50 percent from previous years. That is a huge number.

Add this to the fact that applicants need to be the best candidates to deliver on almost every major new development around the world, and this will continue to be a problem.

Undoubtedly there is a battle for talent that we are losing, certainly in mainland Europe – and our government must do something about the VISA process to make it easier and cheaper to employee staff from other countries post-Brexit.

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