"It's frightening," says Rittenberry. "You wonder where's my paycheck going? How much savings do I have. I should have saved more."
Rittenberry and Commercial Interior Designer Ernesto Miranda formed a support group for the hundreds of architects, designers, and project developers who have lost their jobs since the recession began. Figures vary, but experts estimate there is about a 48% unemployment rate for these individuals and about 500 people in North Texas who are looking for full-time work in these professions.
The A+D Career Management Group meets every Friday at 10am and locations vary, based on where they can get space donated. The group is planning a "Professional Showcase" where about 400 people will be able to meet with top level executives of design firms. The names of those firms is not being released.
Architect Bill Arnquist has been free lancing for the last year. "I had work that came to me that allowed me to work for myself and to be able to do projects that kept me from having to look for work every week" says Arnquist, who attends the support group meetings.
Tom Lamson is an Executive Recruiter for Babich and Associates. He specializes in finding work for architects, designers, engineers, people in construction and property development. Lamson says the layoffs have been devastating in this industry and some of the most well-respected companies are trying to find new projects. "They started with making cuts that were, in some cases, necessary," says Lamson, "and it's built to a point where they're cutting their most valued employees."
Those who still have jobs work long hours, Lamson says. "One of the biggest ironies now is that the people who are still employed are overworked. They're working 60, 70 hour weeks at percentage cuts."
But Lamson says there are signs that new projects are on the horizon. He says banks are now starting to lend money and executives of architectural firms are beginning to get excited about future projects, but it could be another year or two before the unemployment rate is significantly reduced. And the more time that passes, Lamson believes those with the most experience may enter other fields of work.
Lamson says those involved in the A+D Career Management Group are doing exactly what they should by networking, discussing leads and training one another in the newest technological advances.
"You can't isolate yourself and expect the job board to come to you" says Rittenberry. "We're optimistic."
Click here for more information about the A+A Career events.
Stephanie Lucero DALLAS (CBS 11 / TXA 21)