So many projects, so few architects. How design firms are filling a talent gap

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So many projects, so few architects. How design firms are filling a talent gap
"This is the toughest [hiring] market I've seen in 20 years,” said architecture-firm owner Michael Szerbaty / © Buck Ennis
So many projects, so few architects. How design firms are filling a talent gap
“This is the toughest [hiring] market I’ve seen in 20 years,” said architecture-firm owner Michael Szerbaty / © Buck Ennis

In October, Michael Szerbaty began searching for as many as four seasoned architects to help his 13-person firm handle a surge in design work. More than six months later, he’s still at it.

“Initially, I went looking for people with five to seven years of experience, then I expanded that to [as little as] three years,” he said. Last month, the founder of his namesake 30-year-old Manhattan-based firm lowered his sights yet again.
He’d settle for architects with as little as one year of experience who simply knew their way around basic computer-aided design software. “This is the toughest [hiring] market I’ve seen in at least 20 years.”

Two years ago, architecture firms were still clawing their way back from the Great Recession, when business all but dried up. Now construction is booming, and demand is sky-high for architects to design new schools and high-end residential condominiums—even whole new neighborhoods like Manhattan’s Hudson Yards.

Yet firms have woken up to discover a hole in the talent pool: a missing generation of young architects whose careers failed to take root in the Great Recession, which began in 2008. Without those seasoned hands, many firms are making due with less-experienced people, and as a consequence, are devoting more time, as well as money, to training them.

Meanwhile, members of the thinned ranks of the lost generation find themselves in high demand. Not only can they have their pick of firms, but they also can expect to make up to 15% more than a year ago—and then pile up lucrative overtime hours on top of that. []

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