Friday, July 2, 2010

IDP: how fair or useful is the process?

Anonymous' comment on a recent blog post has given me much excellent food for thought. Two of his/her points from that comment must be considered together:

Second comment. I think the current IDP process is very unfair. An intern in the northeast can work at a firm that doesn't support its goals and the intern will not gain good experience. An intern in the south can work at a firm that supports the goals of the IDP and will gain a career advantage over the intern in the northeast.

Third comment. I think the AIA needs to provide firms with more incentives for helping interns finish the requirements of IDP. Right now, all of the IDP requirements are for the interns. The firms are not required to help interns complete the IDP.

We kind of have to discuss these points together, as they intertwine a bit. The reason that firms aren't required to support IDP is because IDP is a voluntary process that each state's architectural board either does or does not mandate as a requirement for attaining licensure in that state. For example, my state of Colorado does not specifically require that an intern follow IDP in order to be eligible for licensure in that state--as a matter of fact, with enough work experience and the right tests, you can be a licensed architect in the state of Colorado with just a high school diploma.

Furthermore, the AIA is a professional organization, not necessarily a governing body. Membership in AIA is voluntary, so if the AIA provides incentives to firms for supporting IDP, that only affects firms whose owners are members of AIA. If an intern works for a crappy, sweatshop-of-a-firm whose owners aren't members of AIA, than they give less than one-tenth of a hoot about those incentives. It would be more helpful if each state's architectural licensing authority provided some mandate for following IDP and then required that firms support that structure. However, bear in mind that having such a requirement would also mean that interns would all have to join NCARB, which means paying NCARB that $60 a year or $90 a year or whatever it is nowadays to maintain your NCARB record. And I know of a lot of interns who write that check to NCARB with gritted teeth every year, so that might be a hard concept to sell. At the same time, I like the idea of making reciprocity even easier--if everyone's following IDP, then there's no reason to give NCARB a wad of cash each year to maintain your license--you have the record already. (Hmm...this brings on more talk....)

As for the fairness of the IDP process, I'm not sure what an intern's locale has to do with the quality of their internship experience. Two architecture firms across town from each other can have differing levels of support for their interns, and therefore the interns at Firm ABC get a much better experience than the interns at firm XYZ, though they're both located in, say, San Antonio. What would make the IDP unfair is the state-by-state adoption of it, and then the lack of support for it in some states or even some firms. The process in and of itself is neutral--work this amount of time, get these credits, and then you're ready to sit for the exam. What has made IDP unfair in some sense here lately is the economy--interns get laid off and lose valuable time and precious credits while sitting on the sidelines of their profession. (And I've had people ask about whether NCARB gets it or not--I'm getting y'all an answer...) IDP is as fair as it can be on its own, but some other rules could stand to be put in to place to make sure all interns are getting a fair shot at success.

Next post: Venting and Complain-a-thon 2010! Bring it on!


  1. Lulu,

    Here is a story for your venting and complain-a-thon 2010. I, unfortunately, had an experience similar to, Anon, from a previous posting.

    At the firm where I worked, I was a new employee also at a larger firm. I was hired to work for a project manager who was just promoted to that position by that firm. At my interview, this new project manager who just completed the IDP and was also almost complete with the ARE seemed like a good person to work under. So, I decided to change jobs and go work at this new firm under this new project manager. What a mistake this was to become.

    I was only at this firm for three weeks, and this project manager called me to his office. So, I went to his office and he told me that he had quit and the next week would be his last week.

    Subsequently, the firm moved me to one of their other teams. This time I wasn't being supervised by a licensed architect. One of the main problems that I encountered at this firm was adjusting to their CAD standards and procedures. This firm was trying to implement a new standard CAD procedure for all of the firm's teams to follow.

    The new team I was moved to still preferred the OLD CAD standards. When they would give me an assignment, they would tell me to email CAD support in order to have the CAD technician show me how to set up the construction documents according to the New CAD standards. I would do this and later show my team my progress on the drawings. My team would object to the New CAD standards and would have me change everything I was working on back to the OLD CAD standards. Then, CAD Support would get involved again and over rule my team and require them to update the drawings back to the NEW CAD Standards.

    So, I would end up doing this assignment again. This is now the 3rd time that they had me do this same assignment.

    Now, when a performance review came up, the project manager would cleverly find a way to blame me and say that I frequently spend too much time on the drawings.

    They had me do the same assignment 3 times while trying to learn both the NEW CAD standards and the OLD CAD standards!! I guess it would take me longer. This happened several times throughout my first year there. I voluntarily stayed later in the evening at first to make up some of the lost time. But, I got tired of sacrificing my evenings for their mismanagement of me so I stopped staying later.

    The firm managed to call this poor performance on my part and terminated me.

    Since then the economy has been so terrible, that I have been unable to find a new job. They told me when they terminated me that they would give me a good reference.

    I always suspect that they may not be giving me a good reference, since I can't seem to find a new job. I know I have 2 good references, but I am unsure about the reference that this firm gives me. All they would have to do is tell a prospective employer that calls them that I had a performance issue and I won't get another job in this economy.

    Are there AIA people out there who could check this reference for me?


  2. Scott: you might be able to get anyone to check your reference for you--even a parent. Have someone call your reference(s), make a call, pretend to be an HR person for an architecture firm, and ask about your performance. Do you know where the person you originally went to work for/with went to? S/He might be a better reference for you. Also, did you happen to ask that person why s/he left the firm after a month?

    Regardless of what the third firm says, bear in mind that this has been the worst economy in 30+ years, so that may have been the biggest strike against you. You're competing against a lot of people in this economy.

  3. Thanks Lulu,

    I think I know a person who might be able to check my references. I'll try this person. I do know which firm the project manager went to. However, I never tried to contact him. I did not ask him why he was leaving the firm so fast. I was kind of shocked when he said that he quit. I assummed that he would not tell me the real reason why he was leaving. I should have quit too. I didn't think it was right to have someone change jobs to work on your team and then quit right away. I'll try not to do that to someone in the future if I ever become a project manager. Scott