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YAF Summit20: Young Architects Unite Around Top Six Issues Confronting the Profession

By Jennifer A. Workman, AIA
2012 YAF Chair

Just prior to the 2012 AIA Grassroots Leadership and Legislative Conference, the Young Architects Forum (YAF) celebrated its 20th year with an event that questioned the future of emerging professionals of all kinds: the Summit20. This event brought together over 60 professionals in the design industry from across the country to document their views on the top issues affecting young architects.

A YAF survey was used to select four of the top issues. The YAF Advisory Committee then selected two issues, and the entire assembly picked the remaining four. A secret ballot was used to rank the top 10 selected issues in order of importance, and the top six items of this list were defined. The complete top six list: Advancement of the Profession and Career Advancement were tied for first place, followed by the Value of Design, Starting Your Own Firm, the Value of Licensure, and Economy and Change. This was a very different (and unexpected) list of concerns from the previous 2007 Summit results. Five years ago, Mentorship, Human Capital, Leadership, and Practice Management were deemed the most important concerns

The Summit20 attendees were a diverse group of licensed and unlicensed professionals. Some were involved with the AIA and some were averse to the institution, some were right out of school and some were seasoned professionals. Some practiced in a traditional work environment, and others worked for contractors, developers, or in academia. Regardless of their background, everyone’s goal was to improve the quality and future of the profession through the voice of the YAF.

The group heard from several members of the Young Architects Forum Advisory Committee on the history of the YAF, and the outcomes of the 2007 YAF summit. AIA staff provided a view of the demographics of the industry, and it was surprising to learn that 40 percent of AIA membership consists of young architects. Marsha Littel, an expert on the generational differences that complicate workplace relationships in all industries, spoke to the group about the different ways architects can bridge the gap between Baby Boomers, Generation X, and Generation Y. With 45 percent of AIA membership consisting of Baby Boomers, it’s obvious that new leadership will need to step forward as these older architects begin to retire. Additionally, the editor-in-chief of ARCHITECT Magazine Ned Cramer, Assoc. AIA, was asked to speak about his predictions for the future of architecture. University of Texas-Austin architecture professor Larry Speck, FAIA, wrapped up the event by discussing how the practice of architecture has evolved in the recent past till now. At the end of the day, all of the speakers’ voices were heard in the selection of the top issues facing young architects.

The YAF is currently developing an action plan to reinforce these top six issues at the national, regional, and local levels. With the recent spate of negative articles fretting over the potential demise of the architecture profession, it was refreshing to see so many people leave the summit with a belief that the profession is in good hands.

Visit the YAF Summit20 website >


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