Belfast Telegraph

Trade cut forcing architects to axe staff

By Heather McGarrigle

Northern Ireland's architectural sector is struggling, with some firms shedding up to 80% of their staff over the past four years.

A survey by Hays Recruitment of 134 architectural practices found that almost a fifth had made more than 60% of staff redundant in the last four years, 30% had a redundancy level of over 40%, with 6% forced to let go some 80% of their employees.

The decline in Northern Ireland's construction industry has led to many related industries suffering from knock-on effects.

The latest 'state of trade' survey from the Federation of Master Builders showed construction trade fell for the 14th month in a row during the second quarter - the steepest decline of all the UK regions.

John Moore, director at Hays in Northern Ireland, said: "Many employers we spoke to referred to the traumatic and emotional experience of having to downsize so rapidly.

"This reflects not only the sheer numbers involved, but also the nature of the profession - most practices are close-knit.

"Enforced redundancies in this 'community' can be very difficult to deal with. It is vitally important that measures are quickly taken to address the situation and create a sustainable future one of our most prestigious, learned professions."

However, the report did bring some positive news - 11 of the practices polled have grown in this period, of which six are newly established.

Some 30% of practices surveyed said they planned to take on new staff although around 65% admitted they had been forced to cut costs, and one-in-eight practices said they had invested in aggressive marketing to become more competitive.

Mr Moore said: "Ad hoc spending cuts can damage corporate reputation, infrastructure and demoralise employees, leaving companies struggling long after the recession ends."

Key recommendations made by Hays to boost the sector include investment in social housing, education and healthcare projects, enhanced business training, and a national industry think-tank. 6%

The percentage of architectural firms that laid off 80% of staff