Internships Play Vital Role in Curbing Brain Drain in Arkansas


Internships are important to both emerging professionals and to the companies that offer them.  In the Architecture, Engineering, and Construction (AEC) market internships are critical to the continued growth and advancement of the industry. Internships may very well curb “brain drain” and aid in the economic development of Arkansas.

Students get access to vital experience that shows them what a potential career path will be like.  This exposure can help them have a broad perspective on industry which can enhance their competitiveness in the classroom and eventually help them become a more attractive potential employee

For employers, hosting interns is a great way to identify, attract, and retain talent.  This is important in this industry in Arkansas at a time when many academics believe that students must leave our state to fully reach their potential.

The internship requirements for AEC students in Arkansas vary greatly from school to school and program to program. At University of Arkansas Little Rock, Engineering and Construction Management majors require 800 hours of professional experience for graduation. This can come in several forms of experience, including an internship. The three interior design programs in the state, at University of Arkansas, University of Central Arkansas, and Harding University, require an internship to graduate from each of their individual programs. These internships usually occur in a design-related company. The architecture students in the Fay Jones School of Architecture program at University of Arkansas are not required to participate in an internship before graduation.

According to the United States Congress Joint Economic Committee’s study titled “Losing Our Minds: Brain Drain across the United States,” college educated Arkansans are more likely to leave the state, leaving us in a position of potential economic stagnation. To help curb this issue, the AEC industry in Arkansas can offer internships to students, which will help attract and retain talent in the industry. According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) 2019 survey, there is a 56.1 percent average conversion rate from intern to full-time hire. And, 71.4 percent of those interns stay for at least one year or more.

Interns have great success at getting full-time job offers at a higher rate. According to the NACE survey, 57.5 percent of students with internships received a job offer, compared to 43.7 percent for those who didn’t. Paid internships at companies are more impressive to employers, with 66.4 percent of students with paid internships receiving job offers, while an average of 43.7 percent of unpaid interns were offered a job.

Employers can benefit from hiring students who have interned, too. On average, it takes 62 days from job posting to giving an offer in the AEC industry. A way to encourage growth and expedite the job placement process is to hire interns. This way, the potential talent pool is already identified.

Actively promoting internships for degree-seeking young people in the AEC industry is a step that must be taken to help attract and retain talent. We must recognize this step as an integral part of the development of students, the industry, and our state.

by Cromwell Architects Engineers

Emerging Trends for the Changing Workplace


The changing world is constantly influencing how and where we work. Workplaces are more engaging, becoming spaces where people can connect and share ideas.

New strategies challenge traditional workplaces. Well-designed spaces can communicate a company’s identity and be a great recruitment and retention tool. Designing places for people to have a choice in their surroundings helps increase employee satisfaction. Because of this, interior designers focus on providing a variety of spaces that support an engaging work environment. Comfort, connection to nature, and scientifically proven environments are becoming more popular than ever.

Healthcare, education, industrial/manufacturing, hospitality and other industries all have special requirements to address when designing interiors. The design trends resimerical, biophilia, and evidence-based design may not sound like much to most, however they have a huge effect on spaces you visit every day. Interior designers work to coordinate and implement these concepts to improve the function of space, the productivity in work environments, and ultimately the quality of life.

Resimerical is a design hybrid, incorporating elements of residential design into commercial workspaces. Currently, commercial furniture manufacturers are infusing this style into commercial interiors, especially in the arena of mid-century modern options. Collaboration spaces are a good example of a more relaxed, residential-type setting. Cromwell Architects Engineers introduced this style within their collaboration spaces, even going as far as to create a meeting area called the living room that incorporates the furnishings of a mid-century modern home. This space allows employees to meet in a comfortable and relaxed environment.

Biophilic design integrates nature and natural elements, materials, and forms into architecture and interiors. This design style is important for physical and mental well-being. It can help reduce stress while increasing creativity and focus. Examples of this go beyond adding plants into a built environment. It includes visual connectivity with nature from the interior of a building, adding living walls on building exteriors, and green walls for interiors. Using glass on building facades so that everyone may benefit from visual connection to nature is often implemented in new construction. A beautiful example of this is the ArcBest headquarters in Fort Smith. It sits at the top of a hill overlooking the Ozark Mountains and Arkansas River Valley. Floor to ceiling glass walls bring in natural light and helps connect its employees to nature.

Evidence-based design is the process of constructing a building or physical environment based on scientific research to achieve the best possible outcomes. It is especially important in the medical field, where research has shown that the environment can affect patient outcomes. It enhances the patient experience, assists with staff retention, helps to reduce mistakes, assists with infection prevention, and reduces slip and fall issues in the healthcare environment. The Department of Defense even requires evidence-based design be used in their healthcare facilities and many of their own interior designers are EDAC certified individuals.

Social spaces in the workplace are also becoming more popular. Cromwell developed collaborative spaces in the middle of their design studio that include work tables, lounge areas with marker boards, and a coffee bar with a dining table. ArcBest has a community room called The Truck Stop, a multifunctional space for indoor/outdoor dining and meetings. And, one organization in Little Rock’s East Village is incorporating an entire coffee shop into their space so employees can enjoy a coffee shop work environment on-site.

As the workforce changes, we will certainly see new workplace trends emerge. In order to thrive, organizations must assess their own business goals and create the interior spaces that make sense for their own workforce.

by Cromwell Architects Engineers

How Public Policy Encouraged Suburban Sprawl and Cultural Isolation


Over the last 70 years, segregated housing patterns and automobile-driven decision making have created suburban monstrosities that have left damaging and long-lasting issues with our cities and public transportation.

After World War II, radical changes in the policies of urban development, driven largely by America’s love affair with the automobile, brought about dramatic and detrimental changes to our towns and cities. While other developed countries continued to subsidize and expand public transportation, the United States slashed subsidies to public transportation systems while pouring money into new highways and roads. These new roads promised easy access to work in the city from idyllic homes in the countryside.

Compounding the negative impact on public transportation systems were policies that subsidized the expansion of utility systems into the suburbs rather than encouraging the redevelopment of neglected areas close to urban cores where utility and road systems were already in place. These subsidies made flight to the suburbs affordable since the true costs of this suburban expansion were passed on to the taxpayers rather than to suburban developers.

At the same time that public policy was subsidizing suburban sprawl, new zoning ordinances were designed to discourage mixed use development in these new neighborhoods. These zoning ordinances prohibited apartments, duplexes, and retail from being built in proximity to single family houses. In general, these ordinances require larger houses, larger lots with larger setbacks, and unnecessarily wide roadways, often with no sidewalks. The number one priority became the accommodation of the automobile. Seventy years of these kinds of policies have helped create a nation of clogged highways, urban decay, pollution, segregated neighborhoods, obesity, loneliness, isolation, and a lot of ugliness.

Segregated housing patterns are one of the most damaging aspects of automobile-driven decision making. Vibrant neighborhoods house people of different ethnicities, economic means, and ages. Good public transportation provides for the interaction of people of all backgrounds and economic class. Automobile transportation is cultural isolation.

Fortunately, many cities are rethinking the kinds of public policies that helped create these suburban monoliths. Organizations such as the Congress for New Urbanism advocate for a more holistic approach to development including mixed use development and walkable communities with easy access to public transit. Cities and communities with a high walk score correlate with the highest real estate values in the country:  New York, San Francisco, Boston, Miami, Philadelphia, Chicago, Washington DC, Seattle, Oakland, and Long Beach.

Another national trend is that of empty nesters and baby boomers moving back into walkable urban centers. Futurists predict that the vast suburban sprawl encouraged by public policy in the past will become the cultural slums of the future.

Gwilym Pryce writes in “Poverty is moving to the suburbs – the question is what to do about it,” that “the conventional image of suburbia is one of bland affluence and social homogeneity. Suburbs are where the middle classes aspire to make their nests. They are the idealised safe havens for raising children and growing old. They are where white people migrate to flee ethnic diversity. Suburbia is where nothing happens.”

How ironic it is that the automobile, the ownership of which represents the ultimate example of the American dream, has created so many nightmares for today’s policy makers? Many of the social and development problems we confront today were the direct results of policies driven by our infatuation with the automobile: hours of commute time not spent with family, hideous strip developments, segregated neighborhoods and schools, minimal support for public transportation, pollution and global warming. Hopefully, the renaissance of inner cities across America will reverse the long lasting damage inflicted by automobile-centric policy making.

by Cromwell Architects Engineers


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