August 5, 2014
In reviewing the proposed revisions to the IDP program I believe that both the short and long term measures are problematic and can ultimately be detrimental to the profession at large.
Phase 1 abridges the minimum reporting hours from 5,600 (3,740 Core Hours + 1,860 Elective Hours) to only include the 3,740 Core Hours. The contention that the elective hours do not necessarily demonstrate an effective means of developing competency in protecting the health, safety and welfare of the public is fair. The response to eliminate literally 1/3 of the apprenticeship period (reducing the approximate 3 years of training to 2) is misguided, unbalanced, and reflects poorly on the perception of our field compared with other established professions.
I believe that the crux of this argument is to further enable an expedited licensing process for young design professionals. It is important to nurture talent and keep this younger generation engaged in the practice of architecture. The ongoing problem with many leaving the profession due to a lack of jobs in the marketplace or lower wages will not be ameliorated by getting licenses in their hands faster. If anything it will hurt them more because a company looking to hire will expect to pay more for a licensed architect than they would for a draftsman but concurrently they will expect a greater degree of knowledge. Those that elect to pursue independent practice on their own will be more susceptible to act quickly without necessarily understanding the consequences of their decisions because their training was never really completed.
Accrediting bodies will not be the ones to fix the “brain drain” effect, only practicing architects that can give them opportunities to grow, learn, and mature in the profession while still making a living wage will fix this problem. Current academic practices do not teach to the Architect Registration Exam nor does actual work experience always translate one to one, however each provides components that inform the material of the ARE. We would do a disservice to younger designers by rushing this process while devaluing the body of knowledge that we have fostered over generations. If anything the abridgment reads to me as a surreptitious means of getting more people to qualify to test sooner, resulting in a larger body of people paying to take tests that they are likely less prepared for but which would result in more money flowing to NCARB by way of testing fees.
Time in internship matters. If the argument is that 1,860 hours of service are irrelevant in the current system because they cannot be quantified empirically as useful, the response should be how do we rethink 1,860 hours of service. A simple answer would be to keep them as elective hours but evenly distributed over each of the (4) experience categories. If upon further review the argument arises that some experience categories are more valuable than others, the 1,860 hours can be divided proportionally according to perceived value. Alternately, the hours need to be reapportioned within the (17) experience areas. It is of paramount importance that NCARB cease the endless litany of decisions whereby problem resolution occurs solely by means of total elimination of the problem (eg. the drafting software for ARE vignettes is outdated and fails to match with tools used in daily practice, the response is to eliminate the vignettes in lieu of fixing the software.)
Regarding the Phase 2 plan to revise the (4) experience categories to (6) that each align with the ARE exams is a logical direction to go in however the proposal goes too far. Trying to maintain multiple systems of documenting experience (one via the workplace and the other via testing) is burdensome and can be confusing for interns. It is a good idea to match experience categories with examinations however if the suggestion is to overhaul the system eliminating the (17) experience categories, then once again we are throwing the baby out with the bathwater. It is imperative that these specific categories be structured into the (6) larger experience categories rather than removed. It may be prudent to even expand upon these categories as a means of reapportioning the 1,860 hours described previously. While I agree that the complexity of the current system exists, the problem lies in the broad definitions of the experience categories themselves. Personally I do not agree that reducing complexity results in fewer categories I think it translates to more categories with less ambiguous definitions. The ultimate key though is that the categories of experience match firmly with the intent of the associated ARE exam. The broader focus presented in the narrative explicitly states, “the current 17 experience area of IDP, in combination with their respective minimum hour requirements, reflect an extremely specific and detailed format that keeps internship focused on the details rather than the broader picture.” Even Mies van der Rohe knew that “God is in the details.” We as architects live through details. It is only through rigor, passion, and a commitment to details that we can effectively uphold the health, safety and welfare of the public. We do not need a holistic, feel-good approach that won’t adequately prepare the next generation, we as practitioners need to better mold our workplace to foster their growth so that they can thrive and be successful both at the apprenticeship level as well as throughout their careers.
The above article is an Editorial submitted by an AIA-NJ Member, views expressed are not the views of AIA New Jersey.
Architects are skilled professionals who listen to you, interpret your wishes, help realize your building dreams, and add value at every stage of a project.