What? You are talking about slavery in the highly respectable profession in the 21st century. But, unfortunately, yes, you heard that right. Today, we are going to discuss something which is very close to most if not all architectural students, internships. Do architectural firms exploit students for their benefit?
What do you think?
Well, to be honest, most of them do. The matter is one of simple economics for them. The salary of an average peon is probably about two times as compared to that of interns. And of course, the trainees are well educated and can handle situations that the average peon cannot. Thus, for the average architectural firm, the decision is a no-brainer. To keep multiple positions open for interns, throughout the year not only is very lucrative it is a shortcut to save on precious resources for most companies. Or maybe sometimes that architect also underpay himself.
Architectural Intern life!
While this is a widely known phenomenon, some architects such as the famous architect have gone on record to say that architectural interns should be the ones paying him and not the other way around. Such examples only go on to explain the kind of mindset that most architects and their firms have for their interns.
How are interns exploited in the field of architecture?
So, let’s discuss the following are some of the many ways in which interns are exploited at architectural firms throughout the country.
Lack of Appreciation:
Lack of Appreciation is something that most us forego. We Indians are pretty conservative when it comes to appreciating people. Especially, when they are juniors. Many interns have complained from time to time that they do not feel like a part of the organization because of the lack of appreciation is shown towards their efforts. Interns are probably one of the most hardworking people in any organization and to appreciate them not only motivates them but goes a long way in creating a positive impact on their professional lives.
Most architectural interns are made to work on menial tasks which hardly require any thought and are monotonous in nature. While many argue that it is important to learn from the ground up, there should be a balance to the tasks given to an intern. With tasks such as drafting, paperwork and office chores, designing and analytical tasks should also be entrusted to interns under the guidance of a senior architect. Isn’t that the reason most people still intern? To learn under the direction of a senior? This is what the architectural firms have to keep in mind to create a successful intern program.
Office Working Hours:
Among other things, we architects are proud of the number of hours that we put in on a daily basis. Without exception, architectural firms all over the world have the longest hours as compared to most industries if not all. This practically makes the firms modern day slave drivers. The long work hours along with low pay become for most interns. This is the reason due to which the industry sees one of the highest employee turnovers across different sectors.
Pay or Wages:
The amount paid to interns is ridiculous. It is as much as five times lower than minimum wage in many cases. Agreed that interns are low on knowledge and skill, but that doesn’t mean that they get paid stipends that are abysmally low. Architecture “boasts” of having the lowest stipends across all industries. In our opinion, the stipend should at least if not more take care of the basic expenses of traveling, stay and food costs. Currently, in most cases, the stipend doesn’t even take care of these basic expenses. The industry needs to take recognition of this fact and act on it as soon as possible.
Another rather alarming situation is the rude behavior shown by most architectural offices to interns. While saying that all architectural offices are like that is not true and wrong. But there is a general attitude wherein the interns are looked down upon as they are novices and amateurs to the profession. While the amateur part is true, the architects in the firms should not forget that even they were in the intern’s shoes at one point in time. It is partly because most architects were not treated well when they were interns; they behave similarly towards the interns that come into their offices. This kind of behavior creates a negative environment for work and degrades the industry to lower standards of work ethic.
In addition of that Architects such as Sou Fujimoto and Peter Eisenman have come out in favor of unpaid internships, stating that they serve as an invaluable introduction to the practice, since “you can’t do anything for [the first] three months anyway” as Eisenman reportedly stated during a talk at the Harvard GSD in 2007. Fujimoto, meanwhile, is used to the “open desk” policy of internships in Japan, in which students line up scholarships and then intern for the standard twelve to fourteen hour days for three to six months along paid staff, building physical models and participating in the day-to-day office culture. Just as each studio has its own culture, so each country has its own notion of what constitutes an ethical employment contract. (ref. architect.com)
This, in conclusion, we would like to say that while organizations should make use of interns, the deal should be a balanced one. Where in the interns are trades in their time and effort for skills, industry insight and reasonable pay? This is our message to all the architectural firms in India. We hope that everyone listens to this reasonable request in favor of the fraternity of future Indian architects.