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Britain is losing the battle to recruit the world’s best young architects

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Tt Young Architects

A double whammy of Brexit and the global pandemic has seen applications for vacancies drop more than 50 per cent as top candidates from outside the UK look elsewhere.

Before the Covid pandemic, we had just hit the button on Brexit so if you think about architecture industry, major chunks of applications for came from mainland European universities.

​If you look at Denmark, Italy, and Spain these are the engines that feed a lot of the more creative roles in this country. 

Brexit has seen a significant decrease in people wanting to apply over to the UK because of what’s involved and the visa progress.

​And then the architecture industry was hit with the second blow of the pandemic, which has changed the way people think about their life, work, and everything else. 

​According to UCAS in January 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 even 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 want to stay close to home and their family after completing their studies instead of applying for jobs in different countries.

​Many of those have perhaps just been able to go back to their homes after all the lockdowns and everything else.

​The current situation in Ukraine is also having an effect.  Many people have now realised life around family and friends at home isn’t that bad. So, we’ve seen a decrease in those applying from overseas who want to come in. 

​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.

​I do think what will happen will be a short-term issue though, in that people will gradually see their friends taking better jobs abroad again and being successful at it - and in time that will change other people’s minds. 

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

​We have effectively closed Britain and opened-up the rest of the world. You could say that eventually what will happen is 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.  The jobs there were fewer and farther between so they 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, Turkey so they are still applying, but our numbers are down at least 50 per cent from previous years.

​That is a huge number. 

Add this to the fact that the applicants need to be the best of the best to deliver on pretty much every major new development around the world – 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.