NCARB Makes IDP Enhancements in Response to 1999 Study

In early 1999, approximately 3,000 interns, former interns, and practitioners responded to a “national survey of the internship experience” that was conducted at Montana State University and funded by the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards. The survey’s primary purpose was to empirically assess the impact of the Intern Development Program (IDP) on both current and former interns. The late Pamela J. Hill, AIA, associate professor of architecture, and Dr. Beth R. Quinn, assistant professor of sociology, served as principal investigators. The project’s findings, documented in an October 1999 report to NCARB, recently have been published in the May 2003 issue of the Journal of Architectural Education. Sharing the report with a larger audience allows for reflection on the original project that highlights NCARB’s critical role in the intern development process.

Survey Methodology
Many of the project’s findings were based on a statistical comparison of two groups: “IDP Interns” and “Non-IDP Interns.” These two groups are known as convenience samples because they are based on availability rather than representation. As the investigators acknowledged, “. . . these samples are merely suggestive and cannot be used to make inferences to the [intern] population as a whole.”

No objective determination was made as to who was a valid “IDP Intern” (who was gaining diverse experience, had a mentor, and had employers who valued their work, etc.) and who was not. The differentiation between “IDP Interns” and “Non-IDP Interns” rested solely on one factor: “IDP Interns” resided in states requiring IDP training while “Non-IDP Interns” did not. Therefore, commonalities and differences between these two groups can only be assessed with this in mind.

So What Can Be Concluded?
A far richer analysis was obtained by merging the two groups and identifying the combination of factors leading to more positive opinions about the internship experience in general and the Intern Development Program in particular. This analysis indicated that interns who “rated their internships highly” were more likely to respond that they:

  • Were getting diverse experience,
  • Had a lot of responsibility,
  • Were satisfied with the level of responsibility they were given,
  • Were receiving “good mentorship,” and
  • Had employers who valued their work.

Although this appears to be good news, other analyses indicate that a significant number of interns were receiving few, if any, of the above benefits (both in states requiring and not requiring IDP training). While Dr. Quinn points to “IDP” as a significant causal factor in this situation, those who are actually responsible for facilitating intern development—the profession, firms, and interns themselves—are not fully addressed in her commentary.

NCARB Looks to the Future
In order to continue to improve the intern development process, NCARB advocates that every party involved in the process assume greater responsibility. For its part, NCARB carefully analyzed the original survey results and responded in three significant ways. First, the importance of providing more meaningful intern development opportunities and mentorship was validated at two national summits on architectural internship. The profession’s five collateral organizations—NCARB, AIA, ACSA, NAAB, and AIAS—have committed themselves to addressing these needs.

Second (and more specifically addressing NCARB’s role in the IDP process), survey results indicated that interns felt “NCARB regulations and paperwork” represented one of the biggest problems with the IDP process. Complaints included inefficient resources for documenting and tracking internship progress, and slow response time from NCARB staff. To address these concerns, NCARB created an online IDP record-keeping resource using an Excel spreadsheet, completely revamped its Customer Information System to provide more timely Council Record services, and created opportunities for interns to access IDP and Council Record services online through the NCARB web site.

Finally, survey findings that describe the falsification of IDP reports prompted NCARB to establish a system for auditing selected Council Record documents. In addition, language was added to the Rules of Conduct publication, which prohibits architects from making a false statement, or failing to disclose material facts “accurately” and “completely,” in connection with registration and license renewal. All violations are given to Member Boards and/or NCARB’s Committee on Professional Conduct for action.

The Architectural Internship Evaluation Project provided a long overdue analysis of the Intern Development Program’s potential strengths and problems related to the internship process. Supporting and funding projects of this kind establish an objective basis for positive change within IDP—to everyone’s benefit.