Professionals and associations are going through some of their hardest times right now. Although many architects would compare this time to the last Great Recession, young people (many of whom were in middle school in 2008-09) have no real memory of anything to which this current crisis is comparable. It is abundantly clear that the graduating class of 2020 will have a difficult few months, and potentially few years, ahead of them as they attempt to enter a job market in their chosen field. What can architects do to support new graduates, even when the profession itself is struggling? How can we prevent another lost generation? Here are a few ideas:
1. Get in Touch
Reaching out to students and recent graduates in your state or area can have a huge impact with little effort. It can be as simple as sending a “how are you doing” email to an AIAS Chapter President or including a shout out in your Newsletter that speaks to young people and lets them know that the profession has not forgotten them. Students don’t expect everyone to have all the answers or to predict the future, but we’ll lose too many great, future architects if we forget to encourage this generation. Mental health in architecture school is already at a stressful state, and in this season of final reviews and exams, hearing from the profession can help calm additional anxieties.
2. Host a Town Hall and Include Them
Gather firm leaders together to discuss the current impacts of the health crisis and invite students to the discussion! This creates a direct line where students can hear what leaders of the profession are thinking and professionals can hear more about how students are doing. If you’re already hosting webinars for firm leaders, changing the titles or tag lines to be more inclusive of who should attend is critical (who wants to show up where they don’t feel welcome?). During the webinars, be sure to ask questions of the panel or the audience that challenge them to address recent graduates and new associates. Firms will surely have varying answers, but any answer at all (even a “we’re not sure”) will create more transparency and remove the mystery in the minds of students (who are probably imagining the worst case scenario).
3. Facilitate Mentorship Opportunities with AIA Fellows
Host a couple of casual webinars that are exclusively for students and local AIA Fellows to provide an opportunity for group or 1:1 mentorship. The topics of discussion can be structured around giving advice and guidance for students who are concerned about the potential lack of summer internships, and should allow time for open questions. Talking about how architects are thinking about ramping back up once the majority of the pandemic has passed, especially in your local area, would also be helpful, as it eases student fears and helps prepare firms for how to best welcome recent graduates when they are open for hiring again. Ask the Fellows to tell the stories of their career to remind students that there is more than one way to practice architecture. And, last but not least, remind students to explore their passions and start new hobbies, even in this potentially uninspiring time.
4. Update Job Boards
Although many firms have placed a pause on hiring, students are still looking for work this summer, especially 2020 graduates. If firms do have open positions, encourage them to update the AIA Component job board in order to spread the word. Also, don’t limit the job listings to just architecture firms – include potential opportunities in construction and related fields. If there are educational or volunteer opportunities available in your area, advertise those as skill and resume builders that will help distinguish students when they’re applying again. Likewise, consider reminding firms to look for a wider range of experience levels in order to provide more opportunity for recent grads.
5. Advertise Existing Scholarships & Free Resources
During these difficult economic times, students that normally work during the semester and over the summer to save up for school no longer have that income and are looking for other ways to earn money. If there are any current scholarships or grants that students can apply for, they should be shared frequently in order to cast a wide net of potential recipients. In addition to advertising scholarships, try to share existing free resources and pre-recorded content that students can take advantage of as they finish up the semester.
6. Highlight Resiliency Among ‘08 and ‘09 Graduates
Does this all have a touch of deja-vu? The last Great Recession was also a time for panic that gave way to resiliency and preparedness. The graduates of architecture schools around that time have already picked up the skills necessary to survive this kind of industry shift, and young people would love to hear from them! Connecting those graduates to current students will help today’s generation know that this kind of thing is survivable, and will hopefully lend them the courage they need to persevere and eventually join the industry that needs them.
7. Consider Creating Student Competitions
Another high impact, low cost activity that will help keep students and recent graduates engaged is creating Student Competitions or advertising Design Prompts that can help keep interests in architecture alive. This kind of program has the added benefit of elevating students and highlighting their work, something that can help significantly when they are able to apply to and be hired at firms again. There doesn’t necessarily have to be prize money attached, although even a few dollars would help this financially volatile generation. Use platforms like instagram and other creative online tools in order to best engage students and recent graduates.
8. Be Inclusive
It should go without saying that being as inclusive as possible is the best thing that everyone can do in order to strengthen the architectural community. As evidenced by current statistics and by simply looking around, the architectural profession is already one with significant barriers, especially for underserved populations. The existing lack of equity among licensed architects will only be exacerbated by these new, but not unfamiliar, external barriers to education and employment, which means we have to work twice as hard to mitigate them. Now more than ever, we have to make sure that our actions and words speak to those who need the most help, because the profession will not thrive without them. Diversity is not a checkbox, it’s a lifestyle; what the profession chooses to do now will be the indicator of how equitable we are.
Looking for more ways to support and connect with students during the pandemic and afterwards? Email firstname.lastname@example.org to get in touch with current AIAS Officers and Staff.
Written by the AIAS as of 04.20.2020