NCARB Reaffirms Commitment to Paid Architecture Internships

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The following is an October 19 press release from the National Council of Architects Registration Offices reaffirming its opposition to unpaid internships.

Despite continued efforts to improve equality in architecture, unpaid internships can exacerbate existing barriers for many emerging professionals. The National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB) reaffirms its opposition to unpaid architectural internships. Since the launch of the National Experience Program in 1977, the NCARB has always expected employers to pay all students and license applicants for their work, regardless of length or level of experience.

Expectations for architectural firms

Since its inception, the Architectural Experience Program® (AXP) ® has served as a framework to guide candidates in acquiring and documenting practical experience. The first manual of the program described the expectations of license applicants and companies, such as regular coaching sessions and paid time off for professional development opportunities.

“Architects have an ethical obligation to pay license applicants for their work and to provide meaningful internships that enhance their skills,” said NCARB President Alfred Vidaurri Jr., NCARB, NOMA, FAIA. “Over the course of my career, I have had the rewarding opportunity to guide several candidates through the licensure journey, and I can’t imagine not paying them for their contributions. Freese and Nichols Inc., a Texas-based Vidaurri company, offers a strong internship program that emphasizes the value of hands-on experience, supportive mentors, and lifelong learning. The nationally recognized workplace also covers the cost of professional dues, the national licensing exam and study materials.

Although data on architectural internships is sparse, a recent survey on the NCARB’s LinkedIn page found that 32% of nearly 500 respondents were offered, or saw a listing for, an unpaid architectural internship. over the past three years. Across all industries, 40% of internships are unpaid, disproportionately excluding low-income students and graduates, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE). Additionally, 81 percent of unpaid interns are women, and black or African American students are more likely to have unpaid internships.

The NCARB Joint Diversity Study with the National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA) sheds additional light on how specific groups face disproportionate challenges along the licensing pathway. For example, black or Latino applicants have a harder time finding companies supporting AXP, and professionals over 40 are less likely to receive a variety of experience opportunities.

“The majority of architects begin to gain work experience during their university studies, so educating students about their rights is paramount,” said Michael Armstrong, CEO of NCARB. “Ensuring that architecture students and graduates have access to quality, paid internships is one way for the profession to start tackling inequalities.

What businesses and students can do to address unpaid internships

Today, more than 20,000 license applicants are actively reporting hours to the AXP, according to NCARB data. Applicants for certification, AXP supervisors and company executives should be aware of the policies set out in the AXP Guidelines and the NCARB Model Rules of Conduct, as well as the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and fact sheet. on US Department of Labor Internships.

The NCARB is also conducting an industry-wide study called Analysis of Practice, which will help shape future licensing programs and standards. Architects, license applicants, and students can help inform updates to the experience program by participating in ongoing research. The results of previous polls led the NCARB to clarify its position on unpaid internships, among other important changes to the program.

If an applicant for licensure wishes to report a violation of the NCARB policy regarding paid internships, please email [email protected] or contact your Architect Licensing Board.


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