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Absent architects hurting buildings - UTech-trained professionals failing to find jobs in Jamaica despite shortage

Published:Thursday | March 2, 2017 | 12:00 AMMark Titus
The Caribbean School of Architecture building at UTech.
Sullivan Jones

Less than 10 per cent of the more than 500 architects who have graduated from the Caribbean School of Architecture (CSA) at the University of Technology in the past 20 years have been able to find jobs in Jamaica.

This has forced many of the graduates to seek employment in other countries or in unrelated fields.

"We graduate 40 students at CSA and another 10 in the master's programme each year, but only an average of six get jobs locally, so our students are all over the world where there is greater regard for the role of the architect," registered architect and former UTech lecturer, Julie Sullivan Jones, told The Sunday Gleaner.


Hard to gain employment


"These students spend a total of 10 years to gain their master's degree in architecture, working while studying or borrowing student's loan to fund their tuition, but find it hard to gain employment in their field, so we find many of our graduates in China, Russia, Dubai and Canada ... even though there is a shortage in Jamaica," added Sullivan Jones.

She noted that Jamaica, with the only such training facility in the English-speaking Caribbean, has one of the lowest architect-to-population ratios, with 98 registered practitioners.

"There is a high demand for architects in Jamaica, but owners don't hire architects, because we are seen as slowing down the process or adding more to the cost. So they pay draftsmen to draw a building plan and it is passed by the municipal corporations, even though we have a building act that states that all building plans must be stamped and approved by a registered architect," added Sullivan Jones.

According to Sullivan Jones, who lectured at CSA for more than seven years, the reluctance to use trained professionals could be a contributing factor to a decline in standards that has resulted in some major projects suffering partial collapses in recent times.

"A draftsman can draw, but many times they don't offer the important qualities needed for Caribbean detailing and architecture," argued Sullivan Jones, who will be a keynote speaker at the inaugural staging of Build Expo in Montego Bay, St James, this summer.


Vital role


"The architect plays a vital role in the building industry, because we are trained to see the complexities ahead of time. This process does not exclude the draftsmen to draw these plans, but the involvement of architects must be enforced. We are able to reduce operation cost by as much as 30 per cent, by placing a building on a site and using all architectural placements to save energy.

"The architect goes by the building code, placing columns where they should be, ensuring the appropriate concrete mix, because public and building safety is our priority," she said,

"The emphasis must be placed on safety ... on protecting lives, especially with the disasters we have seen in some of our hotels, we must ensure that qualified building professionals are supervising these projects," added Sullivan Jones.

According to the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management 70 per cent of Jamaica's buildings are designed without professional (architects and engineers) input.

This is expected to change when a new building act, which is being prepared with support from the World Bank, replaces the current 109-year-old legislation.