A central Iowa architectural firm is offering out-of-work architects free courses to update their skills to make themselves more marketable. Rob Smith, co-owner of Architects Smith Metzger in Des Moines, says recent graduates are already trained in three-dimensional computer-aided drawing, but those who’ve worked in the industry for a while may only have experience in two-dimensional drawing.
Smith says, “They’ve probably been out of school for 15 years and without the skill of this three-dimensional software that we now use to do our drawings, they are not as employable.” With the ailing economy, home construction has dropped 70% in the past five years, impacting all sorts of professionals from carpenters to electricians.
Smith says nationally, about one in five architects has been downsized in recent years, though he says the situation in Iowa isn’t quite as bad. Smith says this happened before, back in the late 1970s and early ’80s, as dozens of architects just “disappeared” from the field.
“With the oil embargo, the economy was really tough, interest rates were very high,” Smith says. “Many, many people that I graduated with in ’75 became attorneys, went into the construction trades and we lost a whole generation of people in architecture.” He says he didn’t want that to happen again, so he began offering the free training in April to members of the American Institute of Architects. Unemployed architects can update their skills, work on designs and network.
Another class of six completed the course this week. “I started with a list of 20 members in transition that were identified,” Smith says. “We did some early training of about six weeks of classes and that had about ten (members) and then this was an 11-week commitment.”
Dubbed the Members In Transition Studio, Smith says it’s the only effort of its kind in the country.