To save money, many of the bigger architecture firms are trying to fill their ranks with less experienced, more adaptable employees. But as recruiting becomes ever more skewed in favour of younger candidates, some of these same firms may be shooting themselves in the foot.

A Matter of Cost

I’ve met plenty of experienced, mid-career architects along the way who feel they are being ignored by the industry. Interestingly, some of these professionals even have multiple degrees (like architecture and engineering) in addition to fluency in popular modelling programs, such as Revit, Rhino and Sketch-Up. They are great candidates all around.

So the question is… why are they being overlooked?

Generally, it boils down to two reasons:

  1. The cost factor: Because younger candidates are less experienced, they cost less to the firm. This means that hiring a young candidate is less of a financial commitment compared to hiring a registered architect or even someone with 6-7+ years of experience.
  2. The “adaptability” factor (which is really just a hidden cost factor): Recent graduates often have better computer skills than professionals just a few years older. Many even come in with a range of tech skills outside of architecture, like web design. Younger candidates also tend to be more flexible and adaptable when it comes to any new technology in general. Since technology-driven design can help save time and money, the theory is the more technologically-capable employees they plug into the system, the quicker that a project will get done and the less it will cost them to do it.

A Matter of Perspective

But, the theory often does not match up to the reality.

The truth is that the presence and example of experienced, mid-career architects in a firm is absolutely critical to project success. While younger candidates may adapt more naturally to any of the new technologies, mindset, or work processes, the difference between young architects and their older, more experienced counterparts can be glaring.

Older architects have the ability to manage a very large set of factors and variables. They can more easily keep many things in their heads at once, balance them, and weigh one against the other. In short, older architects know how to think things through better. In fact, researchers have found that as a person ages, instead of getting side-stepped and distracted by all the minute details, the brain gets better at holding these details, yet recognising the big picture. This alone is an enormously valuable asset to any architecture firm since architects need to see both the big picture as well as the small details simultaneously.

But, it seems that among some big firms the senior leaders themselves are stuck in this “young mindset.” They are so focused on the details- slimming profit margins, increased competition, advancements in technology-driven design, a competitive job market- that they fail to see the big picture that will help to ensure their success.