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authors Boyer, E. and Mitgang, L.
year 1996
title Building community: a new future for architecture education and practice
source Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching
summary Internships, before and after graduation, are the most essential link connecting students to the world of practice. Yet, by all accounts, internship is perhaps the most troubled phase of the continuing education of architects. During this century, as architectural knowledge grew more complex, the apprenticeship system withered away and schools assumed much of the responsibility for preparing architects for practice. However, schools cannot do the whole job. It is widely acknowledged that certain kinds of technical and practical knowledge are best learned in the workplace itself, under the guidance of experienced professionals. All state accrediting boards require a minimum period of internship-usually about three years-before a person is eligible to take the licensing exam. The National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB) allows students to earn up to two years of work credit prior to acquisition of an accredited degree. The Intern Development Program (IDP), launched by NCARB and the American Institute of Architects in 1979, provides the framework for internship in some forty states. The program was designed to assure that interns receive adequate mentoring, that experiences are well-documented, and that employers and interns allocate enough time to a range of educational and vocational experiences to prepare students for eventual licensure. As the IDP Guidelines state, "The shift from school to office is not a transition from theory to pragmatism. It is a period when theory merges with pragmatism.... It's a time when you: apply your formal education to the daily realities of architectural practice; acquire comprehensive experience in basic practice areas; explore specialized areas of practice; develop professional judgment; continue your formal education in architecture; and refine your career goals." Whatever its accomplishments, however, we found broad consensus that the Intern Development Program has not, by itself, solved the problems of internship. Though we found mutually satisfying internship programs at several of the firms we visited or heard about around the country, at many others interns told us they were not receiving the continuing education and experience they needed. The truth is that architecture has serious, unsolved problems compared with other fields when it comes to supplying on-the-job learning experiences to induct students into the profession on a massive scale. Medicine has teaching hospitals. Beginning teachers work in actual classrooms, supported by school taxes. Law offices are, for the most part, in a better financial position to support young lawyers and pay them living wages. The architecture profession, by contrast, must support a required system of internship prior to licensure in an industry that has neither the financial resources of law or medicine, the stability and public support of teaching, nor a network of locations like hospitals or schools where education and practice can be seamlessly connected. And many employers acknowledged those problems. "The profession has all but undermined the traditional relationship between the profession and the academy," said Neil Frankel, FAIA, executive vice president of Perkins & Will, a multinational firm with offices in New York, Chicago, Washington, and London. "Historically, until the advent of the computer, the profession said, 'Okay, go to school, then we in the profession will teach you what the real world is like.' With the coming of the computer, the profession needed a skill that students had, and has left behind the other responsibilities." One intern told us she had been stuck for months doing relatively menial tasks such as toilet elevations. Another intern at a medium-sized firm told us he had been working sixty to seventy hours per week for a year and a half. "Then my wife had a baby and I 'slacked off' to fifty hours. The partner called me in and I got called on the carpet for not working hard enough." "The whole process of internship is being outmoded by economics," one frustrated intern told us. "There's not the time or the money. There's no conception of people being groomed for careers. The younger staff are chosen for their value as productive workers." "We just don't have the best structure here to use an intern's abilities to their best," said a Mississippi architect. "The people who come out of school are really problems. I lost patience with one intern who was demanding that I switch him to another section so that he could learn what he needed for his IDP. I told him, 'It's not my job to teach you. You are here to produce.'" What steps might help students gain more satisfying work opportunities, both during and after graduation?
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