Architectural Ellipsis

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    NCARB's Sunset of Indefinite Length

    Everyday Architect
    Aug 30, '19 6:25 PM EST

    Ever since I completed the AXP requirements, passed the ARE, and became a licensed architect I haven't had to deal with NCARB as much. The last time was about a year after I received my license when they reminded me it was time to renew my NCARB Certificate that they had gifted me for that first post-licensure year. It has been nice not having to deal with them, but I also know that they continue to be the source of a lot of frustration for licensure candidates. I never wanted to simply abandon the stances I took on licensure, internships, and the various architectural organizations (like NCARB) that govern these processes simply because I was past that point in my career. Rather I want to be one of the architects out there that understands these issues as best I can. The initial purpose of this blog was to advocate for that career stage, and I plan on continuing this focus as much as I am able to, albeit from a slightly different perspective.

    When NCARB claimed they tackled the intern title debate back in May 2015, I disagreed with that assessment. In fact, I asserted that NCARB punted the intern title debate. My reasoning is laid out in that post and subsequent comments, and if you haven't already, I'd encourage you to read them. I'll actually be referring to a lot of the other posts I've written on the subject which would be good to read as well.

    Since the 2015 announcement, there have been a number of subsequent developments in the progress of sunsetting the term "intern." I'll applaud many of those developments but my continuing compliant is that when NCARB removed the word "intern" from the lexicon, they failed to put forth an adequate replacement. I'm convinced this is the product of their own doing. By advocating for so long the regulation of the title of architect and it's derivatives, they now find themselves in a position where they cannot put forth a replacement that doesn't tread over the regulations they've advocated for. Even when the AIA attempted to fill that void and offer replacement terminology, NCARB pointed out that those titles don't really work, primarily because of the regulations they've advocated for.

    The result of all of this is that NCARB is quick to pat themselves on the back for removing intern from their documents and renaming programs like the Intern Development Program (IDP). This may appease some of their critics by showing that they've made positive changes to the programs they administer by getting rid of the negative connotations with the word 'intern.' However, I pointed out in 2017 that they really haven't carried through with their initiative to sunset the usage of the term "intern" completely. It looks like they haven't followed through with necessary resolutions to remove the suggested titles of "intern architect" and "architectural intern" from NCARB Model Law (see Section 11, paragraph 13). They could have done this in 2017,(but there were no resolutions advanced at the Annual Business Meeting), again in 2018 (none of the resolutions address it), and again in 2019 (the Annual Business Meeting took place earlier this year in Washington, DC, but I have not seen any press about any resolutions advanced at the meeting).

    In that post in 2017, I wasn't optimistic that NCARB would take the appropriate action in the Model Law. I think the changes that would be part of that action would require putting forth a recommendation for a title to give those people post-graduation and pre-licensure, and I don't think NCARB is yet willing to take that step. That isn't to say they don't have a path forward when they do decide to take that step.

    On the contrary, NCARB and the four other architectural collateral organizations (AIA, AIAS, ACSA, and NAAB) all have had a pathway forward since the early 2000's when the Collateral Internship Task Force (CITF) presented the Five President's Council with "a model framework for improving the professional development transition between education and practice." This model framework had nine ideals with underlying implementation strategies to ensure success. In my 2017 followup post, I pointed out that despite initial rejection by NCARB, some of these strategies have since been widely adopted, and now NCARB uses them as examples of helping advance licensure in the profession ... this has not changed. However, the final ideal that "architecture graduates should be recognized for their knowledge and abilities" by appropriate titling remains unaddressed. 

    The titles the report recommends are "architecture student," "architect," and "registered architect." The title appropriate for students is pretty straightforward, already in use, and wouldn't require any changes. Rather changes would be required from the NCARB member jurisdictions for "architect" to be used to describe accredited degree graduates as they pursue diverse career paths, and for "registered architect" to be used to describe those who have obtained their license. I think those titles are appropriate and dignified, and I think they would be able to be largely understood with some effort put forth by the 5 collateral organizations to educate and lead the industry and the public. I'd even been willing to hear proposals for other titles, but I'm skeptical that there are dignified titles that accurately describe the post-graduation, pre-licensure career stage that wouldn't require the same type of effort to change regulation and educate the public. My point being, the regulation on the title of architect and its derivatives will need to change anyway as part of the sunset of "intern," so we might as well advocate for something simple and effective. 

    So here we are, over 4 years past the point at which NCARB declared they had tackled the intern title debate. I will give NCARB credit where it is due and acknowledge that they have removed most of the terminology from their documents and programs, and they have worked to advance the pursuit of licensure among candidates. However, in spite of that, the Model Law still contains intern terminology, and we seem no closer to a dignified title that accurately describes the post-graduation, pre-licensure career stage. NCARB needs to finish sunsetting the term. I enjoy a good sunset as much as anyone else, but a 4-year-long sunset is getting a little too long. I'm beginning to wonder if NCARB has figured out a way to stop the rotation of the earth so they can "enjoy" a sunset of indefinite length.

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About this Blog

An ellipsis [...] is used to signal an omission, an unfinished thought, aposiopesis, or brief awkward silence. Architectural ellipses are those aspects of the profession we (perhaps intentionally) omit, gloss over, or let dwindle in silence. Generally applied this blog should encompass many aspects of the profession. Yet, as an intern architect (now architect) I'll focus primarily on the architectural ellipses that occur in the internship process (and beyond).

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