Action needed to save skills

People needing to employ a landscape architect in five years’ time may have difficulty finding an employee after a survey by the Academy for Sustainable Communities (ASC) predicted a 91 per cent labour shortage in the sector.

This means that a small number of landscape architects could be left to carry out a large number of jobs. Chairman of the ASC Professor Peter Roberts warned: “Urgent action is needed or else labour shortages could grow so fast that within five years there won’t be enough skilled professionals to deliver sustainable communities.” The survey of 146 organisations and 763 workers, named Mind the Skills Gap: A Review of the Skills We Need for Sustainable Communities, looked at the level of skills needed in order to build sustainable communities for future generations. Out of the 11 industries examined, landscape architecture, urban design and architecture (as a combined sector) came out worst. Its 91 per cent shortage was almost twice that of the 46 per cent shortage predicted for the planning sector and 85 per cent greater than the six per cent shortage predicted for surveyors. The report found that increasing acknowledgement of the importance of attractive public realms has led to an upswing in demand not matched by supply. It stated: “Their [public spaces’] involvement in the quality and nature of the built environment is crucial to place-making, an essential element of the delivery of sustainable communities.” To help bridge the skills gap the ASC is recommending a nation-wide development of cross-professional programmes to encourage people to migrate over to landscape architecture from other fields. “There are close relationships between these professions, particularly from architecture and landscape architecture into urban design.” The report does not take into account the impact of the period after the 2012 Olympic Games. A second report is being commissioned to investigate this. Landscape Institute director general Marion Bowman said: “The profession is already doing much of the work the report calls for by way of cross-professional working. Indeed, the basis for all work in the public realm is the ability to work with communities, understand their needs and implement the findings of these consultations. We need to recruit, train and keep more landscape architects, so it is essential that a national effort to support sustainable communities prioritises creating more landscape architects. Without that, many public policy objectives cannot be achieved. “With government support, we must encourage a new generation of talented and creative young people to make landscape architecture their first career choice.”

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