2015 Essay Topic: Recruiting the Next Generation
Our scholarships recipients explain how they would manage the following practice management situation to a favorable conclusion.
In anticipation of a significant increase in their design workload, a group of partners is strategizing an approach to finding qualified architectural staff. During the economic downturn that began in 2007 unemployment reached an all-time high and hiring by architectural firms plummeted. Correspondingly, anyone entering the architectural profession (and the construction industry in general) faced serious challenges finding employment. Firms are now challenged to find and recruit professionals with 3 – 5 years’ experience.
What are the qualities that would make this firm a likely choice for those in the millennial generation? How should the firm present those qualities to best appeal to millennials? What else could the firm do to deliver the increased workload?
Congratulations to our 2015 Scholarship Recipients!
Alyssa Tope, Assoc. AIA
B.S. in Architecture and Sustainability the University of Minnesota
M.Arch Candidate at Virginia Polytechnic Institute
The first key to solving the firm’s recruitment issue is understanding what millennials are looking for in a profession. Millennials have grown up with access to endless amounts of information at their fingertips and are constantly exposed to different cultures and ideas. This over-stimulation leads to millennials having diversified interests and therefore desire a job where they can combine architecture with fields such as sustainability, technology, marketing, and science. Millennials want a career that allows them to make an impact on the world, maintain a work-life balance, and work on projects that are fresh and innovative. It is also important for firms to show a vested interest in helping new hires complete all of the IDP and CE requirements because loyalty to employees will garner loyalty to the firm in return.
Due to the sheer amount of information and options available to millennials, firms need to make themselves stand out amongst the crowd. A quality website is very important in attracting millennials because it is likely the first place they will look for information. It needs to be easily navigable and present as much information as possible in few words. Highlighting the firm’s best projects and emphasizing a willingness to embrace new ideas will inspire recruits to work at the firm by appealing to their passion. Finally, a firm needs to present itself as having a healthy and exciting atmosphere where collaboration is a priority.
In addition to new hires, a firm can increase its production by embracing technology. NCARB has proven the time-saving results of technology with its recent decision to decrease the number of required IDP hours due to increased learning rates made possible by technological advances in the architectural field. Also, minimizing meetings and allowing employees to telecommute would add hours of production time each week.
Alyssa Tope, Assoc. AIA, completed her undergraduate degree in 2013 and decided to work in the field before continuing on to graduate school. Currently, she is working towards licensure at WholeTrees Architecture & Structures. Working at a small (five person) office requires her to wear many hats, which has accelerated her learning about not only design, but also practice management and the business of architecture. She has gained experience in all avenues of business, including accounting, marketing, human resources, grant writing, code research, project management, and product research and development (with the USDA Forest Products Laboratory). She has also learned that many risks in project management can be prevented by having a team that knows how to collaborate and problem solve together by being aware of each other’s weaknesses and strengths. She enjoys working on the edge of what is currently accepted in design because, although it involves more risk, it is also where the greatest potential for change exists. Architecture can improve the triple bottom line – social, economic, and ecological factors of design. She will to continue to commit herself to design principles that advance the field of architecture in graduate school and her future career.
Edward Palka, Assoc. AIA
B.S. in Architecture from the University of Minnesota
M.Arch Candidate at Columbia University
Having lived through the economic downturn of 2008, millennials remaining in the design fields are motivated by creative and intellectual concerns, with money as a secondary concern. Millennials seek stimulating and novel design challenges in collaborative and flexible work environments. The challenge for firms wanting to attract experienced millennials is to communicate their firm’s culture of creativity to these prospective employees.
I would quickly launch a social media initiative focused on the creative culture of the firm; highlighting current work and commenting on and sharing articles relevant to the profession. I would also encourage and incentivize my young staff to use their social media contacts to extend this dialogue and express their own opinions, positioning the firm as a lively and interesting workplace. This would act to extend the reach and awareness of this initiative beyond just the firm.
Most firms aspire to the same creative ideals as millennials but market themselves in traditional ways to clients; not employees. There is a disconnect between how these firms market themselves to prospective clients and what millennials are looking at and interested in. Social media can bridge this gap.
Firms like NBBJ and Sasaki Associates leverage social media like Twitter and Instagram to not only highlight their own designs, but to create dialogue with other designers through articles, blogs, and research which reverberate across the industry. These firms understand how to use social media in a way that excites and interests not only prospective clients but millennial employees. Through their social media buzz, they define themselves as the most interesting and creative places to work. The firm would join this group. A small investment in meaningful social media will act as an accessible medium for publicizing career opportunities while attracting young professionals with appropriate experience as well as optimism, hunger, and idealism.
Edward Palka, Assoc. AIA, recently completed his last semester of the Bachelor of Science in Architecture program at the University of Minnesota and will begin the M.Arch program at Columbia University in the fall of 2015. He has held internships at HGA Architects & Engineers in Minneapolis, MN, Poltronieri Tang & Associates in Swarthmore, PA, the Children’s Inn at NIH in Bethesda, MD., and will be beginning an internship at KieranTimberlake in Philadelphia, PA this May. In these roles, he has had experience working on projects through all phases from pre-design through construction administration. Additionally, he has worked on research initiatives professionally and academically related to BIM integration and education, daylighting strategies, and analysis of spatial configurations of housing developments. Beyond a passion for architecture, though, Edward’s professional experience has brought him an interest in the design of architectural practice itself, including firm structure, marketing, and technology and workflow integration. Edward, currently working through his IDP hours, hopes to become licensed soon after graduating with his M.Arch and looks forward to beginning his career full-time.
2015 Jury Commentary
Thomas G. Coghlan of Design Insurance Agency, Inc. – A Division of INTEGRO, based in New York and a/e ProNet’s Scholarship Chairman offered the following comments on the jury’s deliberations: “Having reviewed each scholarship applicant’s submissions the jury focused on the essays, individual biographies/resumes and letters of recommendation with an eye toward an exhibited focus on practice and risk management. The scholarship winners showed a strong commitment to identifying and implementing best practices in their academic and work experiences. a/e ProNet established the scholarship to recognize and reward students who are committed to improving private practice efforts to mitigate potential liabilities. The scholarship winners utilized newly emerging technology tools to better document and communicate risks to all stakeholders on the project. The jury found the scholarship winners showed great leadership skills to achieve successful project outcomes.”
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