Make Internship More Meaningful
by William Prelogar Jr., AIA
I have noticed a trend over my 30 or 40 years in the profession that the time from graduation to licensure is getting longer. My perception is that the young graduates simply are not putting the same personal emphasis on getting licensed as we did in the past. We had the same three-year waiting period (during which we were professionally referred to as “draftsmen”) and a rigorous seven- part, four contiguous day exam process. This exam was administered by most states only once or twice a year. and you had to pass four of the seven parts to obtain and retain credit for passing any part.
Past the history and on to the observations:
- The tendency of the organization of practices within the profession to become larger has lessened the urgency felt by young professionals to become licensed so they can leave their internships and strike out on their own.
- The tendency of those now larger practices to recognize increasing competency by granting greater responsibility and commensurate pay increases based on performance rather than achieving an individual milestone such as licensure.
- The institution of the IDP program’s rather rigid training and experience regimen has, for many young graduates, lengthened the internship period.
- The introduction of the “take any part at any time” format for the professional examination has allowed a degree of procrastination to creep into the personal initiative of the interns.
- Societal changes in the length of time that young people take to find and settle on a mate and commence family (and therefore more responsible) life has greatly extended the “let’s party” lifestyle we all enjoyed in college. After all, who wants to wake up Saturday morning after a fun Friday night, dig out those ALS Seminars and “hit the books”?
- The profession has a dickens of a time already trying to get the lay public to understand what the title “Architect” means and stands for. Just look at the periodic newsletters from state licensing boards. The ones I receive are generally full of disciplinary actions taken against unlicensed professionals calling themselves “Architects.” What we clearly don’t need is another fuzzy title floating around out there to further confuse the public.
Now for some suggestions:
- All states should, through the NCARB, determine which sections of the exam are designed to test the mastery of primarily “academic” knowledge and which parts are designed to test knowledge gained through the internship experience. Once determined, those academic parts should be eligible for examination at any time after graduation.
- The IDP program could and maybe should be loosened up a bit as far as the precise number of units required in each experience category.
- The professional organizations (AIA) should really encourage its member firms to adopt and embrace IDP. As far as I’m concerned, the AIA is really weak here.
- Member firms should be encouraged to reward and recognize achievement of professional status by their young interns.
- The academic institutions should make sure that their curriculums include a clear and concise outline of the steps that new graduates will be expected to take to complete their preparation for achieving “professional” status.
- The interns themselves need to be more proactive in pursuing their licenses. When seeking a job make sure the firm you are going to work for has an active and useful IDP training program in place and agrees to provide you with timely and relevant experience and is prepared to mentor you through the process. If that firm is not willing to make that commitment, look elsewhere. Take responsibility for determining what your state board requires of you prior to your sitting for parts of the ARE, set timetables and deadlines for achieving your goals, and do not let procrastination interfere with your established priorities.
- Firms should accept responsibility for encouraging their interns to set personal goals, enroll in the IDP program, have regular review sessions to make sure the intern is getting the relevant experience, provide information about exam review sessions sponsored by the local AIA chapter, and be generous to this next generation of young architects. Provide paid time off for taking the exam. Pay the enrollment costs. (This, by the way, in most jurisdictions amounts to big bucks.) Pony up for a set of the ALS Seminars.
Instead of diluting what “architect” stands for, let’s proactively, as a profession, figure out how to make the time of internship more meaningful, the process more lucid, and achieving the status “architect” more compelling and rewarding.