A: The purpose of the internship employment period is to ensure the Intern Architect or Student Associate is provided with sufficient hands-on architectural experience to meet the standards of practical skill and level of competence required to engage in the practice of architecture in Canada. The Intern Architect or Student Associate’s Supervising Architect is personally responsible for providing daily supervision and direction, facilitating the transition between architectural education and practice, and providing the practical architectural experience required for licensure. Similarly, the Intern Architect or Student Associate’s Mentor acts as an independent guide/advocate available for regular reviews of experience progress, as well as discussion of career objectives and broader issues related to the profession.
As an Intern Architect or Student Associate gains experience toward their IAP categories, the Supervising Architect provides detailed and frequent direction, supervision, and guidance on the work and learning experience of the Intern. Direction and supervision can occur either through in-person meetings that follow health guidelines as well as remote communication (e.g. via email, online markups, and videoconferencing), provided the Supervising Architect maintains oversight of the Intern Architect or Student Associate’s work, and has sufficient professional knowledge and familiarity with the IAP to determine the competency of their performance.
Within the context of remote work, some IAP experience categories present challenges, such as Category B Contract Administration. Many practices are determining new, safe ways to meet their contractual obligations during construction, be it remotely or in-person. The means and methods that practices have put in place for their contract administration activities may vary from project to project. What becomes critical with respect to IAP experience within each context is the ability to gauge if the Intern Architect or Student Associate is gaining a knowledge base and skills that are transferable to other projects and practice circumstances.
In-person interaction with the Supervising Architect is not necessarily required for the acquisition of IAP experience. What is required is clear, daily communication, meaningful collaboration, and exposure to best practices that build competency toward licensure. Whether experience is gained remotely or in-person, the OAA relies on the review comments from Supervising Architects and Mentors to assess whether the Intern Architect or Student Associate is gaining the architectural experience that meets the standards of practical skill and level of competence required by the IAP.
Practices, Supervising Architects, and Mentors should examine how to support Intern Architects and Student Associates while working in a virtual workplace. Open communication and frequent check-ins will be necessary to ensure all parties are aware of experience category progress and also areas that need more work. The following tips can help facilitate support while working remotely.
Schedule recurring virtual meetings
Consider creating a meeting schedule, both for the entire office and for specific project teams, but also one-on-ones with those reporting directly to you. These conversations become opportunities for both pointed questions and general small talk. It is important to keep in mind that it is best for all these meetings to be done through a video platform.
During virtual meetings with Intern Architects and Student Associates, take time to:
• establish regular meeting schedules with each person you supervise;
• discuss specific, recent examples of work situations or tasks, using virtual platform tools such as white boards or screen sharing;
• talk about other architecture related topics;
• review IAP progress and discuss tasks in the experience program to assess your candidate’s competency level; and
• create a plan or strategy for professional development based on upcoming opportunities.
Encourage and maintain healthy work schedules
Working from home can easily blur the lines between personal and work lives, with everyone needing to find the right balance that suits their own needs and effectiveness. When having one-on-ones, be sure to make this an area for discussion. Support your Intern Architect or Student Associate’s search for balance, and then honour it once it has been established. Remember, everyone will have a different situation at home, so it is important to recognize scenarios, focus on what needs to happen, and plan out how to accomplish it, which may differ from the timeframes normally associated with traditional workdays.
Engage in online conversations
To facilitate the exchange of quick conversations there are a variety of virtual platforms to choose from that can be tailored to meet the privacy and/or accessibility requirements suitable for most firms. Most of these applications can be a great way for Intern Architects and Student Associates to conveniently ask you (and the whole project team or office) questions as they arise, and vice versa. On many platforms, you can create channels for staying connected.
If your team has shifted to a virtual work environment, it may also be helpful for everyone to agree on shared expectations on how these communication tools should be utilized, including the type of messages and speed of responses. Lastly, never assume everyone has a shared understanding—it is always helpful to be explicit about the purpose and needs right from the start.
The Toronto Society of Architects (TSA) has prepared an excellent resource page on COVID-19 preparedness their website, which offers links to guides for working remotely, among other topics.
Last updated: January 14, 2021