By: Holly Williams Leppo, AIA, NCIDQ-certified, LEED AP

AXP candidates will work with a variety of professionals throughout the first few years of their architectural careers, but the most influential advisors will be their AXP Supervisor and AXP Mentor.

An AXP Supervisor is the person who is responsible for direct oversight of the candidate’s day-to-day work. In a smaller firm, this may be the principal architect and candidate’s employer; in a larger organization, it may be a licensed architect serving in a project or team manager role who is overseeing the candidate’s daily efforts. The AXP Supervisor must have the authority to assign tasks that will allow the candidate to obtain experience across the AXP practice areas. A Supervisor may only sign off on work that he or she has personally overseen. Therefore, candidates may have more than one AXP supervisor during their training – for example, if they change jobs, or are assigned to different work groups within the same firm.

At the conclusion of each reporting period, the AXP Supervisor verifies the quality and quantity of hours logged by the candidate and the types of tasks performed, and attests to NCARB that the records are accurate using the tools on the NCARB website. Architects who maintain an NCARB certificate may use their existing My NCARB account to manage reports; those who do not hold a certificate must establish a log in to access and review the submissions.

AXP candidates can accrue experience hours in either Setting A, an architecture firm, or Setting O, which encompasses related design, engineering, or construction companies and other approved activities. When an AXP candidate is employed by an architecture firm, the AXP Supervisor must be a licensed architect. If the candidate is employed in an organization that meets the requirements for Setting O, the AXP Supervisor may be either an architect or another licensed professional, such as an engineer. (In some Setting O situations, such as community service or independent study, the AXP Mentor may approve the candidate’s log submissions.)

Successful AXP Supervisors understand that the first few years of a future architect’s career are a time for developing the tools they will use as licensed professionals, and that these years bridge the gap between theory and practice. They recognize that the candidate will need guidance as they take on new responsibilities, time to learn new skills, and patience and counseling as they attempt, and possibly fail, at things they have never done before. Acting in this capacity for a younger licensure candidate, as a mentor or employer likely did for you at the beginning of your career, is a way to preserve the master/apprentice relationship that is integral to architectural education. The time commitment required for administrative duties is reasonable; expect to spend an hour or two each month checking in on the candidate’s progress, reviewing submissions, or offering advice.

So how does an AXP candidate find a mentor?
  • Encourage AXP candidates to track their time promptly and provide frequent updates on their progress. NCARB requires that hours be reported within eight months of the time that they are accrued to obtain full credit, and up to six months’ worth of time can be reported in one submission. The AXP Guidelines suggest that candidates submit a progress report to their supervisor every two months to stay on track. Set a calendar reminder to ask the AXP candidate about their experience at regular intervals, and encourage them to schedule a time to meet with you to review their log and keep you apprised of areas in which they may need more assignments.
  • Become familiar with the six practice areas included in the AXP, and understand which types of tasks fit into each category. Try to tailor work assignments so that AXP candidates have the opportunity to be involved with all phases of a variety of projects.
  • Look for chances for the AXP candidate to shadow you – proposal or client meetings, presentations, and site visits, among other out-of-the-office settings, all allow a young professional the opportunity to observe and begin to understand the variety of situations architects encounter in practice.
  • In states where candidates are permitted to sit for divisions of the Architect Registration Exam while enrolled in AXP, encourage employees to take exams as soon as they become eligible. The experience shown on the employee’s work experience reports may inform which sections of the ARE the candidate should take first. Firms may also support young professionals by reimbursing exam fees or the cost of study materials.
  • The AXP allows candidates to accrue experience in settings outside of the workplace, such as design competitions, community service projects, or through continuing education and certifications. When advertisements for these opportunities pass through your inbox, forward them to the candidate. If your firm’s budget allows, support these independent endeavors by allowing paid time away from the office or reimbursing registration fees after successful completion of a course or certificate program.
  • If the AXP candidate is a recent graduate or new to your area, tap into your network to help them find a mentor. An AXP Mentor is a registered architect who can offer counsel, experience, and encouragement to the candidate and allow them to get to know architects outside of their own firm.