Armstrong’s first visit was to San Diego on January 23, marking the first time in memory that an NCARB CEO had traveled to meet with the members at a California AIA chapter. More than 40 members of AIA San Diego, AIACC staff, and members of the AIACC’s Academy for Emerging Professionals attended the meetings. They shared concerns and open dialogue regarding NCARB’s programs—initiatives supporting the path to licensure from internship to examination to reciprocal certification.
Major topics of discussion were recent changes to the Architects Registration Exam (ARE) and Intern Development Program (IDP). It should come as no surprise that NCARB’s record maintenance and ARE fees were discussed at this meeting; what did come as a surprise was that the cost of the ARE is subsidized by the fees paid by certificate holder. It was also pointed out that, while fees had increased due to an ARE security breach, the large increase was also a necessary consequence of NCARB’s failure to raise fees incrementally over the past ten years in response to annual increases in the cost of living. Armstrong indicated that going forward the NCARB fees would adhere to a schedule issued far in advance with linkage to common indicators such as the Consumer Price Index. There was also discussion concerning NCARB’s business process re-engineering efforts around customer service and ways to improve information response times to record holders.
Another subject brought up was the newly enacted Six-Month Rule, which requires interns to submit their training hours in reporting periods of no longer than six months and within two months of each reporting period’s completion. The Six-Month Rule has been criticized as being a problem for women and is viewed as a career penalty to those who choose a part-time schedule, or a temporary leave of absence from work, to start a family during this same period of time. At the January meetings, Armstrong indicated he is paying close attention to possible unintended consequences of the rule, and if necessary, amenable to exploring the possibility of extending the Six-Month Rule’s allotted reporting time.
Armstrong visited a California chapter for the second time on June 26, this time attending meetings at AIA San Francisco. He met with chapter leadership and over 50 AIASF members, including San Francisco firm principals and Emerging Professionals. Having heard California members’ concerns during his January visit, Armstrong now reported out on NCARB’s efforts to respond to these concerns.
To reduce the impact of its fee increases, NCARB has opted to make some allowances for certificate holders whose records have lapsed due to financial hardship. Armstrong also noted that NCARB is reevaluating the form and content of licensing exams, specifically in response to concerns about testing methodology. This is another issue that members raised during Armstrong’s January visit; many in the profession would like to see the exams incorporate more of the critical thinking and creativity at the heart of architecture.
Armstrong’s third series of meetings will be held at AIA Los Angeles in later this year. As he has emphasized in these first two visits, Armstrong and the NCARB Board of Directors are committed to an open and transparent dialogue with record holders and licensure candidates, and they will continue working with the AIA to strengthen the future of the profession. We have heard positive feedback from the members who have met with Armstrong so far, noting that they appreciated his candor and openness to their ideas.
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