Jason Shelley: During Architecture Week, inspire youth to pursue this rewarding profession

Growing up in Madison in the 1980s, I was a typical kid in small town Indiana. While my high school offered a number of opportunities to explore potential careers, it was the community’s fierce commitment to historic preservation that introduced me to the important role an architect plays in building an environment that is accessible, equitable and safe.

As the executive director of the Indiana Chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA Indiana), I have spent nearly 20 years helping architects grow professionally while also advocating for public policies that protect and improve the value, health, safety and sustainability of Indiana communities.

Nationwide, we need more architects. The architecture field is expected to grow 5% through 2032, faster than the average for all occupations. During Architecture Week (April 14-20), we are sending a message to families, schools, and community organizations: AIA Indiana is here to partner with you to introduce young people to this rewarding profession.

A pathway to an architecture career exists right here in Indiana. Several universities – Indiana, Ball State, Notre Dame – offer nationally recognized programs with internships and job placement services. Indiana’s architecture firms work locally, nationally and internationally, leaving a worldwide legacy.

Our AIA team continues to foster new ways to engage architects at varying stages of their careers. Our Young Architects Forum offers emerging professionals vital connections to seasoned architects, while our Women in Architecture committee is a powerful network of female leaders.

Two of our own Indiana architects have taken a leading role in building the next generation of architects of color. Sanford Garner, FAIA, spearheaded Project Pipeline, a national architectural camp to serve primarily students of color in grades 6-8 who attend center-city schools. The foundation overseeing Project Pipeline has received more than $800,000 to bring the program to 35 cities across the country.

And Kionna Walker, AIA, is on a mission. With Black female architects making up less than 1% of architects nationwide, Walker founded Next Great Architects, a teaching studio that introduces architecture to children as early as kindergarten and nurtures them through licensure.

AIA Indianapolis, one of AIA Indiana’s five sections that span the state, also sponsors an annual design competition among high school students. Now in its 53rd year, the competition engages youth in architecture and provides exposure to design professionals across the state.

At AIA Indiana, we want teachers, guidance counselors, school administrators, students and families to contact us at 317-634-6993. We will bring a team to you so tomorrow’s leaders can learn how architecture is more than simply “designing buildings.” Architecture offers tomorrow’s leaders a channel to create structures and places that can serve our communities, heal environments, and elevate the human condition.

Throughout our diverse state, from urban centers to rural communities, there is a wealth of talent in our young people. Join us, as together, we encourage and grow the architects of the future.

Jason Shelley is executive director of the Indiana Chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA Indiana). Contact AIA at 317-634-6993. Send comments to [email protected].