Lack of staff endangers projects

Dire workplace shortages threaten some of Britain's highest-profile landscape projects, according to industry leaders who have launched one of their biggest-ever recruitment drives.

The campaign I Want to Be a Landscape Architect will target students, teachers, careers advisers and parents. It will include a large-scale email blitz, the launch of a website and toolkits for designers visiting schools.

The Landscape Institute (LI), supported by the HTA and CABE Space, launched the push after it surveyed members and found more than half had to turn down work through lack of staff.

"The findings are much worse than we expected," said an LI representative. "Staffing problems could jeopardise the Government's housing targets and the success of big projects like Crossrail.

"If more than half our firms face staffing shortages and are turning away work now, what's it going to be like in five years?"

LI president Nigel Thorne said "natural soulmates" like the HTA and Natural England were in similar straits, with shortages crippling all levels from grassroots horticulture to designers, managers and scientists.

"We have to go beyond students or there will be no advice and guidance. Sadly, professional courses take longer at a time when the Government is trying to push students through education quicker."

Even the highest-profile practices, like Martha Schwartz's UK base, were turning down jobs because of the lack of staff, said Thorne, who spoke of a "lost generation" of professionals.

"The Government destroyed local-authority landscape architecture and parks departments and this is when people drifted away from the professions.

"There has never been a more important time to train as a landscape architect. Yet I worry when I see ads for senior staff with more than three years' experience. Where does the seniority come from in that time?"

The website www.iwanttobea will be launched in April.

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