Practicing ArchitecturePracticing Architecture
Emerging Professionals Questions for AIA National Election Candidates:
William Bates, AIA (AIA Pittsburgh) Candidate for AIA 2015–16 Vice President
1. What are specific examples of things you have done in your own professional activities and in your local component to build future leaders and promote active participation in the AIA by emerging professionals?
Over the years I’ve led numerous initiatives to pave a path for future architects. Here are a few examples:
2. Where do you see voids in representation of emerging professionals within the Institute and the profession, and how could filling those voids improve career development for emerging professionals in general?
I am not aware of major voids in our organizational structure that prevent emerging professionals from engaging with the Institute. There has been a conscious effort to make sure that emerging professionals have representational seats at every level. This question points to some emerging professionals who say they have been discouraged and disappointed in AIA at the local level. Some might be intimidated or otherwise challenged to find a niche within their local components.
I believe that we have to insure that all member firms and components embrace the value of emerging professional engagement and encourage their institutional involvement. Those emerging professionals that I’ve served with have honed tremendous leadership skills through the AIA, which helped them advance more quickly within their firms.
I also see a great opportunity for emerging professionals to become mentors, providing guidance to young people considering architectural school or graduates pursuing licensure. This is critical to developing a pipeline of future AIA professionals. Furthermore, continuous waves of new technology wash the shores of our profession annually, and are often more navigable by the emerging professional generation. This provides an excellent opportunity for the young architect to advise seasoned professionals about new tools that might make their current practices more efficient and profitable.
3. While the National Design Services Act is one step, how else can the AIA take leadership in reducing the problem of skyrocketing tuition and student loan debt, and the non-linear relationship these have to low early-career salaries that are saddling our profession’s emerging professionals with significant financial hardship?
We are not alone in this dilemma; anyone reading recent headlines knows that the same is the case for medical and law school graduates. These problems are symptomatic of a larger issue that the whole profession is facing. The AIA must apply its best efforts to improving the profession’s clients’ understanding and appreciation of the architect’s value to businesses, communities, the environment and society’s well being. If we are successful, then we will have cleared a path to more profitable practices, which could then afford more equitable and fairer compensation at all levels of the studio pay scale. Our training conditions us all to work hard, but the lack of jobs and low salaries with long hours that sometimes result in minimum wage is not helping us maintain our ranks. Our goal should be to make architecture a more salary competitive career choice for the matriculating graduate, and stem the defection of talent to other fields.
4. In what ways do you see the AIA more effectively educating the public on the importance of good design?
It up to individual firms to sell their services, while the AIA must promote the profession and cultivate the demand and understanding of good design. This is the mission of the enhanced AIA Advocacy initiative that President Helene Dreiling, FAIA, has launched this year. In the past we’ve rolled out what I would call soft promotions of the profession with our NPR sponsorship. I believe that we need to plan more direct campaigns targeting the client population who has the potential to purchase our services. These ads must demonstrate the power of good architecture to make a client’s company more profitable, successful in securing new business, as well as making their employees easier to recruit, retain, and more productive. This client population needs to understand the importance of Quality Based Selection (QBS) and how, when, and where to hire architectural services to their best business advantage--not at the lowest price. Another approach could be to educate lenders to understand the value equation of good design, and then fold that into the conditions of project financing.
5. Much discussion continues to take place regarding the title of “intern.” With regard to titling and beyond, how would you propose the AIA take action to better describe and empower this essential demographic of our profession?
I think the challenge here is the amount of respect and responsibility that we give to those who hold the title of intern, and to find a more appropriate title for those professionals who have decided for one reason or another to make a career in the industry without pursuing licensure. The title must be respectful of their capabilities and role while mindful of the value of licensure. Not unlike paralegals and physician assistants, this growing demographic plays a critical role in the productivity of our profession.
Given NCARB’s recent conceptual endorsement of an “architect-at-graduation program.” it may make sense for the AIA to hold off on any title changes for the intern. This could change the professional landscape, streamlining the path and cost to licensure, while reducing professional attrition. This strategy will take time to develop, since NAAB will have to get involved and restructure the education requirements for their universities.