Success in any field requires taking ownership of one’s own career. Firms can help; many invest in the enrichment of emerging talent, which is vital to sustaining the architectural profession. Here are a few ways firms are encouraging nascent designers to stay and thrive.
Assist in the Licensure Process
Recognizing that time and cost are obstacles to achieving licensure, firms are creating opportunities to help designers fulfill Intern Development Program requirements, assist with exam preparation, and provide financial incentives. At New Orleans–based Eskew+Dumez+Ripple, employees have access to a library of resources, are supported by a licensing adviser, and receive reimbursements for each exam division they pass and a bonus once they’re licensed.
Educational programs allow budding architects to enhance their skill set. Each quarter, Milwaukee-based Eppstein Uhen Architects’ eponymous EUA University administers 15 to 18 courses taught on-site by internal staff and external trainers on topics from Revit to project management to presentation techniques. The firm budgets 40 to 50 hours of training per employee per year. “The training hours are not mandatory, but highly encouraged for growth and development,” said Bob Norman, EUA associate and human resources director.
At Payette, in Boston, the Young Designer’s Core (YDC) hosts events ranging from licensure workshops to construction tours. Operating autonomously from firm leadership, YDC has an open platform model that adapts to the changing needs of emerging architects, say current co-chairs Jenny Ratner and Hilary Barlow. Initially focused on education and licensure, YDC now organizes activities intended to boost morale, advance individuals in the firm, and encourage mentorship. Leadership lunches, for example, encourage budding designers to talk with associate principals about career development.
Offer Research Opportunities
Emerging professionals who believe in the transformative power of architecture can become disillusioned by the reality of the business. “When [designers] first get into the profession, they’re a bit shell-shocked by the very fast pace [with which] projects are turned over,” says Colin Booth, an associate with Watertown, Mass.–based Sasaki Associates. Research allows them to “feel good about what they’re doing.”
Aspiring architects may find career satisfaction in research projects. For those whose primary responsibilities consist of CAD work, the opportunity to delve into an issue of interest can be a welcome change.
This also fosters mentorship, says Andrea Love, AIA, associate principal and director of building science at Payette, where nearly a third of the firm is involved in internal research projects. Senior staff team up with junior designers, who work on the projects in their downtime. The size of the project teams varies with scope, and findings are shared across the firm and the industry. Dissemination is critical, Love says, “because it doesn’t help if the research projects happen in isolation.”
Be Clear About Firm Operations
Transparency about finances, goals, and career development helps designers feel more invested in their work, says Steve Ramos, AIA, a senior associate and project architect at LS3P in Charleston, S.C., who writes about his experiences as a young architect on his blog Buildings Are Cool. An open work culture provides direction, sets expectations, and exposes emerging architects to the complexity of running a practice. EUA’s Norman says his firm shares the financial status of all projects with all employees “so they’re fully aware of how what they do impacts the success of the project and the firm.”