New competencies and the Architects Award

15 November 2023

On 30 October 2023, the Fair Work Commission approved the ACA’s application to amend the Architects Award to reflect the new National Standard of Competency for Architects. Emma Avey of Fair Work Lawyers provides a detailed explainer about the Award changes.

The Architects Award has now been updated to incorporate the NSCA 2021 and is available for download.


The ACA has been working in conjunction with the Architects Accreditation Council of Australia to vary the terms of the Architects Award 2020 (the Award) to ensure it incorporates the new National Standard of Competency for Architects, and remains clear and relevant for employers and employees in the industry.

The 2021 NSCA is currently used for AACA programs such as the Overseas Qualification Assessment, the Experienced Practitioner Assessment, the National Program of Assessment, and the Accreditation of University programs. The Architectural Practice Exam (APE) will adopt the 2021 NSCA from 1 January 2024.

The ACA’s application was supported by Professionals Australia and was approved by the Commission on 30 October 2023. The Award has now been amended accordingly, with additional changes coming into effect on 1 January 2024.

The need to vary the Award arose because the 2021 National Standard of Competency for Architects (2021 NSCA) comes into effect for the Architectural Practice Exam (APE) on 1 January 2024. The 2021 NSCA materially changes some of the requirements for graduates wishing to sit the APE from 2024 onwards. The Award includes a structured logbook process to help graduates obtain the practical experience necessary to be able to sit the APE. It does this by setting prescribed competencies (taken from the NSCA) in a structured annual process. With the substantially changed and updated requirements in the 2021 NSCA, it was necessary to amend the Award to ensure that employers can assist their graduates in progressing towards the APE.

However, because this clause applies to employees both before and after 1 January 2024, there is a staggered change. The first change is to include a note advising readers of the change to the NSCA. On 1 January 2024, the competencies listed in the award will change as set out in the determination. This will allow employers and employees who will be sitting their exam after 1 January 2024 to make the necessary adjustments to their training program, as well as ensuring the Award remains current for graduates finishing off this process before that date.

The annual review process for graduates

The Award contains a compulsory annual review process. Each annual review, you must agree with your graduate on the objectives they should meet in the next year along with any necessary training to assist the employee in achieving the objectives. The objectives set should be designed to assist the employee in obtaining mandatory experience based upon the Prescribed Competencies set out in the Award to assist them in meeting the requirements to sit the APE. The graduate does not need to work towards all Prescribed Competencies each year. Instead, you may choose to focus on a few of the Prescribed Competencies each year. There is no set structure or rules which must be followed in determining which of the Prescribed Competencies to work towards each year. The chosen objectives and any required training should be set out in writing.

If the graduate reasonably meets the objectives that were set during the annual review process, they will proceed to the next pay point (in the Graduate Level 1 classification) at the next annual review (to be confirmed in writing).

What has changed?

Since the 2021 NSCA will only affect the requirements of the APE from 2024 onwards, the main changes to the Award will take effect from 1 January 2024. At the moment, to signify a change is coming, a note has been added into the Award which provides that the Prescribed Competencies listed in the Award will be replaced on 1 January 2024.

While the substance of the obligations remains largely similar to the existing NSCA, the structure of the competencies has changed substantially. Existing templates will no longer suffice and will need to be updated. While you will need to review and consider each competency in more detail as there may also be minor changes to each individual competency, the 2021 NSCA contains two major changes :

  • The practical experience logbook can now be completed digitally (ie. there is no longer a requirement to have a ‘paper copy’ of a log book); and
  • New and expanded areas of knowledge have been introduced in the form of units of competency with a focus on understanding and respecting Country and setting expectations with respect to sustainability, life cycle assessment and whole life carbon.

Head to this link for the determination, which shows how the competencies have changed.

See the AACA Architectural Practice Examination – 2021 NSCA Mapping to 2015 NSCA for more information on changes.

Need help?

Members of the ACA have access to the ACA Industrial Relations Advisory Service with Fair Work Lawyers, who can provide advice and assistance on matters relating to awards.

ACA members can download the amended Architects Award here.

If you’re not a member, learn about ACA membership here. The Architects Award is also available on the Fair Work Commission website.