In the third quarter of 2011, ASLA’s Business Quarterly survey, a poll of 300 U.S. landscape architecture firms, showed that less than 20 percent of all landscape architecture firms would hire anyone in the next year. A year later, another survey revealed what the profession has been waiting on: of all firms with 10 or more employees, over 40 percent of respondents indicated they would start hiring in 2013.
“Though it is still very difficult out there,” explains ASLA’s executive vice president and CEO, Nancy Somerville, Hon. ASLA, “we are pleased to have an improvement picture going into the next quarter.”
Previously, the job outlook results looked like they came from a Magic 8-Ball: “Reply hazy, try again,” or “Better not tell you now.” For once, we have some concrete numbers that really show how resilient our profession can be in times of distress.
Of course, even though the most recent survey shows a good progression toward a better economy for landscape architects, this does not mean that all firms are out of the water. “I would like to hire,” explains one of the 300 landscape architecture firm representatives, “but things are too unstable. We will be extremely busy then slow down significantly. This quarter (quarter four, 2012) is already starting to be incredibly busy, but will it last?”
In the coming weeks, we will have the results of the next survey and will be able to see if this 40 percent number has stuck, fallen, or risen.
Another part of the survey focused on how concerned these firm respondents were about a variety of topics, ranging from national issues like the economy and infrastructure to global issues such as climate change. The top concerns were the economy, then the state of infrastructure, and then climate change.
Over 95 percent of firms answered “very concerned” or “concerned” when asked about the economy, making this the primary concern, by a landslide.
“The big problem in our market is engineering firms are doing our work, due to the economy,” comments one of the respondents.
These results were recorded before the fiscal cliff showed up on everyone’s radar, so one could imagine rising concerns over the past few weeks. We hope to see stable-to-improved hiring numbers in the coming quarter, which could help ease these concerns.
Respondents also showed a deep concern for the state of infrastructure in their markets. More than 70 percent were “very concerned” or “concerned.” When you look at ASCE’s state-by-state report cards, this response is not very surprising. Louisiana, ASCE’s most recent target, fell short on nearly every category, labeling the state’s bridges, roads, and water systems “crumbling infrastructure.”
“Louisiana’s road system is congested, in poor condition and inadequate to meet the needs of a state competing to provide economic opportunities for businesses and citizens in the 21st Century,” according to the report. “Nearly every deficiency noted in the road system is directly attributable to an inadequate and outdated funding model that forces transportation professionals to deter capacity, safety and maintenance projects.” Talk about dangerous curbs in New Orleans.
Also, over 60 percent of respondents were “very concerned” or “concerned” about global climate change and its impact on the U.S. Most of these responses were submitted before the devastation of Hurricane Sandy, after which news sites like The Atlantic directly linked the damage with climate change. Op-ed writer Katrina vanden Heuvel even went one step further in The Washington Post with her politically-charged story, “Avoiding a Climate-Change Apocalypse.”
Many firms brought up business and educational concerns in the comment box, some of which particularly hit small firms: “The requirement for continuing education units falls particularly hard on small firm and sole proprietors,” mentions one respondent. “This issue has been raised several times at the state level with little discussion or resolution.”
On a positive note, the results showed that firms were least concerned with the pool of future talent from the landscape architecture profession. “The quality of work coming from students is increasing,” an anonymous respondent explains. “[The pool of future talent] looks very good.”
Not convinced? Check out the incredible work put out by winners of our 2012 ASLA Student Awards. In addition to the awards, ASLA and Landscape Architecture Foundation support outstanding students through the ASLA Council of Fellows Scholarships. The application period for the 2013 scholarships is now open.
Unfortunately, though, perhaps one question still remains: will these extremely talented students have jobs when they graduate? The Magic 8-Ball has been kind to us recently, revealing that “signs point to yes.”
This guest post is by Phil Stamper, ASLA Communications and Public Relations Coordinator.
Image credits: (1) Jesse Leyh / ASLA, (2) Pothole in New Orleans / Michael McAdams, (3) ASLA 2012 Student General Design Award of Excellence. Colon: Collective Strategies for a Regenerative Waterfront. Carolina A. Jaimes, Associate ASLA