When new architects just entering the field take an unpaid internship, they could be setting a standard that says, “My work has no value.” The American Institute of Architects disagrees. So much so, their Center for Emerging Professionals campaign, “Know Your Worth” challenges that notion and counters it with a different belief: All architects contribute, and all architects deserve to be paid.
The unpaid internship is viewed by many professionals as not just unfair, but potentially damaging. It can set the tone for a person’s entire career. And the only way to avoid it is to insist on fair consideration. If not at one agency, then at a different one with stronger values.
Paid Internships Matter for Everyone
Whether not emerging professionals receive fair compensation for their work isn’t just an issue for new architects. It affects the whole firm. A business that only places value on some of its workers, and that draws the line in front of interns, doesn’t truly value architects for their skills.
Free talent sounds crude, but that’s what a firm that doesn’t pay interns gets. It’s an entitlement mindset that promotes inequality among professionals, and it’s discriminatory. Some of the brightest and most talented are new professionals.
Emerging Professionals Bring Fresh Ideas
New architects aren’t just at an internship to learn. They contribute invaluable perspective and ideas, too. Their input is part of what keeps any architecture firm moving forward instead of becoming stagnant. What is it worth for any firm to learn firsthand what the next generation of up-and-comers thinks?
Emerging professionals integrate into the firm’s teams. They collaborate on projects, contribute their perspective and talent, and help produce important work. Unpaid interns tend to believe that these contributions have no merit. But nothing could be further from the truth.
AIA’s Official Internship Stance
The American Institute of Architects makes no bones about their position on paid internships. The federal government requires that all employees receive compensation. But somehow the intern issue has fallen through the cracks. It’s improving, according to AIA, but it still has a long way to go.
Watch the “Value Your Work” promo video:
The purpose of this campaign is to educate emerging professionals, but it’s also intended to educate architectural firms. Any AIA member must adhere both to the Fair Labor Standards Act and AIA’s Code of Ethics. If those two requirements are met, then interns will be paid. Check out the Value Your Work Facebook page to get involved.
Unpaid internships aren’t one of the building blocks that make a great architect. They don’t build character, and they’re not beneficial except for the bottom line of company that’s getting talent for free. AIA sees this as an important enough issue to address with a full-fledged campaign. And their advice to emerging professionals?
If one firm won’t pay, find a different one that will.
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