What You Need to Know About the Proposed IDP Changes

IDP Proposals
Nick Serfass

Nick Serfass

Executive Director, AIAS

There have been two prevailing philosophies governing NCARB over the past three years: one: Ask “why?” and two: Be agile. At this year’s NCARB Annual Business Meeting, currently underway in Philadelphia, a new future for the IDP was proposed that epitomizes these philosophies in action. This fall, NCARB’s 54 Member Boards will review the proposals and provide comments to our Board of Directors. It is important to keep in mind that everything in this post is a proposal, and the BOD will not make any decisions until reviewing board comments.

Streamlining the IDP

The first phase of the new IDP focuses on streamlining the existing program by refocusing on core requirements. In other words, interns will now only have to complete the 3,740 core hours required over the span of 17 experience areas. While this change reduces the amount of hours required in IDP by over 33 percent, it’s also a commitment to focus on the program’s core content. This modification is the result of a proactive effort to consult NCARB Member Boards, customers, and partners; question and challenge conventional wisdom; and embrace "rigor for a reason.”

Interns and architects engaged in the program have expressed concern that the current model is difficult to understand, cumbersome for practitioners to administer, and often takes longer to complete than intended. To address this feedback, a multi-departmental special research team composed of NCARB staff reviewed historic decisions, interviewed key stakeholders, and researched internal data. Here’s what we found:

  1. As originally designed in 1971, the IDP required only two years of core hours. An additional elective year was added to the program in 1972 to better align with a “three-year duration requirement” already established in many jurisdictions.

  2. The 2012 Practice Analysis of Architecture asked about the knowledge/skills and tasks required to practice in today’s marketplace. It does not, and cannot, identify how many elective hours should be required. Given the definition of “elective,” it is impossible to regulate what specific hours are earned. In other words, there is no statistical evidence that elective hours engender a more competent architect. Elective hours simply add time, which the current program is already heavy on—given that the median time to complete the IDP in 2013 was 5.4 years, according to our latest data.

  3. Technology has drastically increased the scope and speed with which intern architects design and document today’s projects. Current digital tools require interns to learn how a building is put together much earlier in the design process. Furthermore, many aspects of design documentation that used to require hours of labor can now be completed in minutes. One hour in a firm today is much different than one hour in a firm when IDP was first created.

An Agile Future: Overhauling the IDP

The second phase of the new IDP will overhaul the program by replacing the 17 experience areas with just six broad practice-based experience categories. Guidelines will clearly identify the types of tasks qualify, along with hourly requirements. In total, six hourly minimums will match six practice–based experience categories. These six practice-based experience categories will align with the six new divisions of the upcoming ARE 5.0, which will launch in late 2016. Although the areas of IDP changed relatively recently in 2010 with the evolution titled “IDP 2.0,” NCARB is now in an agile era whereby we will constantly iterate our programs. In other words, we’ll research, develop, implement, and evaluate—then repeat.

Interns and architects engaged in the program have expressed concern that the current IDP is bureaucratic, contains too many requirements, and lacks flexibility reflective of today’s firms. In this instance, the same multi-departmental special research team reviewed the evolution of IDP 2.0, the structure of ARE 5.0, and outlined a program that takes these lessons into account. Here’s what we learned:

  1. The current 17 experience areas of IDP, in combination with their respective minimum hour requirements, reflect a specific and detailed format that keeps internship concentrated on minutia. The level of detail required by the intern, the IDP supervisor, and the mentor relegate the current process to more of an accounting practice rather than a true learning experience. A move to a broader IDP that focuses on capturing the “big picture” will allow the intern to more freely explore learning opportunities within the office or on a particular project. The focus on “checking-off a box” and poring over timesheets will be minimized, delivering an internship that encourages a focus on the experience rather than the program itself.

  2. The current practice of architecture involves a greater variety of activities, building types, practice types, and projects than ever before. Since no two intern architects are likely to have the same experience, the IDP must be able to adapt to this variety. A program that focuses on six broad practice-based experience categories accommodates and welcomes the current variety in the profession. Participants will experience less pressure to conform their internship to the IDP. Rather, the IDP will allow their internship to take a more natural direction, indicative of the reality of today’s practice.

  3. Adopting six practice-based experience areas aligns the program with the same developmental structure as ARE 5.0. As NCARB works to better integrate the elements of licensure, it is more efficient when all programs build from the same foundation. A better aligned series of programs allows each to focus developmentally on its specific purpose. The IDP intends for a range of tasks to be experienced, while the ARE measures the acquisition of knowledge. Each program can now focus on their respective expectations using standardized, mutually accepted topics.

The timing and details of each phase are yet to be finalized. The proposals were announced at our Annual Business Meeting to generate feedback from our Member Boards (you can learn more about how our rules are changed here). Additional information will be published if the NCARB Board of Directors approves these changes and as each phase moves through the approval process.

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