James Pickard (pictured) tells why he set up online recruitment platform Tessellate.co

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Original Article: https://www.architectsjournal.co.uk/home/tessellateco-we-are-challenging-the-status-quo-to-bridge-the-skills-gap-in-architecture/10045810.article (available until mid February 2020)

Several recent industry salary surveys and reports, including the AJ’s own, have highlighted that architects’ earnings have fallen significantly in real terms over the last 10 years. This, coupled with the spiralling cost of architectural education, means our profession finds itself in an increasingly unsustainable position and at risk of facing a serious skills shortage in years to come.

As a practising architect for over 30 years and co-founder of Cartwright Pickard, I have seen our profession become more side-lined and the perceived value of architects’ contribution diminished. In order to protect and sustain our future, we must take action now to reassert our relevance in wider society, make a stand against the unnecessary waste and expenditure that blights many areas of the profession, and ensure that employers are able to pay their staff salaries that fairly reflect the huge yet chronically undervalued contribution they make to society.

In its 23-year history Cartwright Pickard has hired hundreds of staff, sometimes using expensive traditional recruitment agencies to find good talent. Following a particularly negative experience with a leading traditional recruitment agency and having grown tired of paying high fees for a relatively poor service, we were inspired to develop Tessellate.co – an ethical recruitment platform created for designers, by designers. Launched in the summer of 2019, we’ve already gained support from many of the UK’s leading architecture practices, such as Adjaye Associates, HTA Design, PRP, Scott Brownrigg, TP Bennett and Níall McLaughlin Architects, who have all joined as members.

Following a similar path to the now hugely successful Wren Insurance Association, a mutual insurance business founded over 30 years ago by a group of architects who had grown frustrated by the limited options available to them in the insurance market, Tessellate.co has been founded and backed by a group of architects and engineers who all share similar past experiences and frustrations with traditional recruiters.

Established with a firm ethical code, we are a technology-led disruptor in a stagnated marketplace that is challenging the status quo to improve outcomes for both employers and candidates. A rigorous algorithm does the hard work and quickly matches candidates with the right jobs, based only on their skills, experience, and career aspirations – no more time wasted applying for jobs and then never hearing back.

As a candidate, it takes less than 10 minutes to create your profile on our web platform. With Tessellate.co, the candidate controls who sees their CV, not a recruiter – they maintain anonymity until they decide to apply for a role, reducing the opportunity for unconscious bias.

While it may not be specific to the design industry, many designers we’ve spoken to have found it very stressful dealing with traditional recruiters. Online and simply designed, Tessellate.co promises never to poach nor hassle candidates and, once they’ve found a new job, it won’t match them with any more until they tell the platform they’re looking again. It has been widely shown that unconscious bias poses a significant problem in recruitment, contributing to an under-representation of women and those from BAME backgrounds.

To promote diversity and improve access to the industry for the less advantaged, for every successful placement made through the platform, we will pay £200 into our scholarship fund, in partnership with leading UK universities and other professional bodies. With your support to help us grow, we aim to award scholarships for a three-year design degree to 20 students a year by 2021.

Following two years of development we are confident that Tessellate.co can make the whole process better for everyone. And we echo the words of the Architecture Foundation’s deputy director and curator of the 2019 Oslo Architecture Triennale on the theme of degrowth, Phineas Harper, when he says ‘there is no sustainability without equality’, and this is especially true as we consider the human resources of our own offices and wider profession.

Tessellate.co has over a thousand candidates signed up, and a hundred more signing up every week

After only a few months Tessellate.co has over a thousand candidates signed up, and a hundred more signing up every week. Membership is completely free. Employers pay just 8% when a placement is made, versus the 15-20% typically charged by traditional recruiters.

Tessellate.co believes that it is only fair that a placement should be covered for as long as an employer’s probation period of up to six months and so, if it doesn’t work out within that time, employers can find another candidate for free. Beyond the core recruitment service that we offer, discounts on a range of employment services, legal advice and CPD training courses are available to members.

Tessellate.co is an ethical alternative to the current state of recruitment in our industry, so I do hope you will test the water of this innovative approach and, as is befitting of our profession, help more square pegs to successfully find homes in square holes.

In 2020 architects must set the agenda and lead the construction industry into a new sustainable digital revolution in which Tessellate.co will play a small but crucial part.

James Pickard is Founder of Tessellate.co, a Director of Cartwright Pickard and a Non-executive Director of The Wren Insurance Association