2019 Architect Licensing Advisors Summit
NCARB and AIA hosted the 2019 Licensing Advisors Summit on August 3 - 4 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The purpose of the two-day summit was to share information about NCARB’s programs and best practices with fellow advisors around the country.
What is a Licensing Advisor?
A licensing advisor is a volunteer who helps others navigate the road to licensure. Licensing advisors come in many forms. All accredited schools of architecture are required to have an appointed advisor as part of their conditions for accreditation. Every state also has a licensing advisor who is appointed by the state AIA Chapter. The third form of licensing advisors are those appointed by their firms or local AIA components.
Overall, around 250 licensing advisors from around the country, including from as far away as Alaska and Hawaii, participated in the retreat. The distance these advisors are willing to travel for the summit speaks volumes to the value these individuals place on the importance of helping others achieve their goals of becoming licensed.
This year’s summit was the sixth that I have attended; and it was by far the best one. The summit used to be an annual gathering which was appropriate due to all the changes that were happening with Architectural Experience Program (AXP), Architect Registration Examination (ARE) and other programs provided by the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NACARB). The need to distribute information on the programs to make sure both the advisors as well as the licensure candidates were up to date on the new rules and programs warranted an annual summit. As those changes have taken effect, the need to gather annually became less; and the summit switched in recent years to a biennial gathering.
2019 Summit Themes
This year’s summit revolved around a theme. Many of the general sessions tied into smaller elective breakouts and included a “If you want to learn more, go to this session later” aspect that made it feel well-planned and choreographed.
In addition, the sessions that focused on major NCARB programs, which addressed topics like the ARE, AXP and NCARB Certificate, went into greater detail beyond a general program overview as they assumed that the attendees, many of whom have attended multiple summits, were familiar with the basics of these programs.
The ARE overview included a discussion on how the ARE is written, including who sits on the Item Development Subcommittee and the process of writing an ARE question (item), and the effort required of the volunteer item writers to get a question from an idea in someone’s head to a live question on the exam.
The NCARB Certificate overview looked at many of the non-traditional paths an individual can take to obtain an NCARB Certificate, including the Education Alternative for those without a NAAB Accredited Degree and the path for a foreign licensed architect. The session also talked about some of the recent Mutual Recognition Agreements to allow U.S. Architects with an NCARB Certificate to gain licensure in other countries including Canada, Mexico, Australia and New Zealand.
Many attendees appreciated this “look under the hood” insight and deeper dive into these programs. After all, we were all there because we want to help others achieve their license – and that includes understanding the programs and resources available to individuals.
Additionally, every session that I attended included some sort of interactive aspect. This was a noticeable departure from past licensing advisor summits where only a handful of sessions included or actively encouraged full participation from the attendees. Helping people become licensed is not a one-size-fits-all approach. Everything from firm size to education background to work experience and home/family dynamics influences an individual’s path to licensure and more importantly how long it takes and if they stick with it.
Adding the interactive aspect to the sessions allowed for fellow licensing advisors, whose backgrounds are as diverse as the licensure candidates they are advising, to participate and share their own experiences. This rounded out the sessions well and provided a more balanced approach to sharing information and best practices as well as an additional avenue for connecting with other advisors, which is one of the main goals of the summit.
The Value of Licensure
I also had the pleasure of co-presenting a session at this year’s summit titled “The Value of Licensure: A Discourse on Present and Future Perspectives.” My co-presenter was DJ Heinle, AIA, from Minneapolis. Our session was a four-corners exercise in which we broke up the attendees into four groups and asked them to answer four questions, with each group rotating among the four questions.
The questions we asked participants to answer were:
- Why is licensure important to you?
- How do you think the value of licensure will evolve?
- What tools/resources do you use to communicate the value of licensure to candidates/peers?
- Why is licensure important to your firm, currently and in the future?
As a precursor to the session, two white boards were set up outside the registration desk for the summit with the first two questions in the list posted at the top and attendees encouraged to write answers to the questions. Those boards then joined us on day two to be a primer for the discussion.
The session was presented twice and was attended by approximately 50-60 participants in each session. Many of the answers thought up by the groups were similar; however, there were some outliers.
The most interesting question posed, in my opinion, was: “How do you think the value of licensure will evolve?” What made it interesting was it required the participants to think towards the future. There is a lot of talk in the profession right now about what the future of licensure looks like and how the value of an Architect’s license goes beyond just designing buildings. Themes with the answers centered around the architect being a thought leader, citizen architect and the value of the skillsets that architects have and how they can translate to many different careers and avenues.
NCARB by the Numbers
One of my favorite parts of the summit is to see the new NCARB by the Numbers. The annual publication is a result of analyzing NCARB’s database of all licensure candidates and certificate holders. It offers insight into the state of the profession and trends related to those working towards and achieving their initial license.
This publication is one of my favorite references to direct licensure candidates to as it offers hard facts on things like how long it takes to earn a license, demographics of the profession, and (one of my favorites) jurisdictions by the numbers, which offers statistics on how long it takes others in each jurisdiction to complete the ARE and AXP. These types of statistics always come in handy when candidates ask: “How long will it take me?”
Being at a conference is always an energizing way to get excited about the profession. How could you not when you are surrounded by a couple hundred people who are just as passionate about the profession? This summit is no exception; and it has the added benefit of being full of people who are committed to helping others get licensed.
For many people this was their first Licensing Advisors Summit. It’s always encouraging to see how they come away excited and full of knowledge to help others. For others, like me, it was a chance to reconnect with the many people who you’ve met at previous summits over the years as well as to make new connections and friends.
I was joined this year by two licensing advisors from Wisconsin. One was representing our state; and the other a first-time attendee for their firm, which also sent a second representative from another office in another state. These first-time attendees quickly saw the value in the summit and returned to their firm energized and excited to help others.
NCARB and AIA make this conference free for all attendees, which highlights the importance they put on supporting those on the path to licensure and making sure they have adequate resources to stick with it and achieve their initial license. That effort is further supported by the AIA Wisconsin Board of Directors, which provided funding to support those that chose to go and don’t have other sources of support.
That effort and support is deeply appreciated, both by those that chose to go as well as those in the licensure process, because it ensures they have resources to support them as they navigate the path towards being able to officially and legally call themselves an Architect.
The next Licensing Advisors Summit will be held in two years. Until then, there is a seemingly unending supply of candidates working towards their license (almost 41,000 according to NCARB by the Numbers) who can all benefit from the knowledge and skills of their local licensing advisor. If you or someone at your firm is passionate about helping others on the path to licensure or simply wants to learn more, reach out to NCARB and inquire about becoming a licensing advisor!
EDITOR: The author, Andrew Malanowski, AIA, was recently recognized by NCARB for his exceptional contribution to the Architect Licensing Advisors Community.