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DCD Magazine

Continuing Education And Certification 
Grows Throughout The Industry

By Kimberly Izenson, CPSM

While members of the design and construction communities scramble to get a share of the growing educational market, many are going back to school themselves as part of the increasing industry trend of certification, licensing and continuing education. Certification is the time-tested means of measuring a professional’s credentials; it sets the standard for architects, engineers, attorneys, and many other professionals.

According to the Marketing Handbook for the Design & Construction Professional, approximately 18 percent of the professional organizations in the United States offer a certification program for individuals engaged in their profession or industry. Those who gain certification benefit by increased respect and recognition in the industry or profession, improved opportunity for upward mobility, increased professional credibility and higher self-esteem.

The American Institute of Architects (AIA) is one organization that operates with a highly structured and stringent program of continuing education for its members. All active members of AIA must successfully complete 18 LU hours each year, eight of which much come from the area of Health, Safety and Welfare (HSW). (One LU equals one contact hour). A member who fails to meet the annual requirement is given a one-year period to make up the missing credits.

While the AIA’s program is well-established, other associations also are recognizing certification as a means to improve their credibility, as well as offerings to both membership and the general public. For example, the Tilt-Up Concrete Association (TCA) and the American Concrete Institute (ACI) recently developed a joint certification program — developed through ACI’s C-650 committee — to recognize the growing tilt-up construction method and ensure professionalism and quality control.

“The tilt-up construction method has grown 111-percent in the last five years alone,” said Ed Sauter, executive director of TCA. “With this growth comes a need for professionalism standards to ensure consistency and quality as the tilt-up construction concept spreads.”

Full certification as a Tilt-Up Supervisor requires a passing score on an 80-question exam and a minimum of five years (7,500 hours) of verifiable construction experience, of which at least three years (4,500 hours) must be as a tilt-up supervisor or assistant supervisor. Candidates must also demonstrate a proficiency in and an understanding of overall on-site administrative and technical management for producing tilt-up projects.

Those lacking the sufficient work experience to qualify may become certified as a Technician by successful completion of the same written examination. Since the initial test in 2001, more than 200 people have been certified.
Similarly, the Design-Build Institute of America (DBIA), in conjunction with the Design-Build Education and Research Foundation, recently approved an individually-based, professional designation program. The Design-Build Professional™ program is dedicated to creating a professional group of experienced, knowledgeable practitioners that exhibit a measurable level of expertise in the design-build method.

This designation program was created in response to owners from both the private and public sectors who wanted assistance in identifying the most knowledgeable and experienced design-build professionals. The designation will be given to members of DBIA and/or affiliates of the Foundation who complete an application process and meet the education, design-build experience and professional degree requirements. Candidates who successfully meet the prescribed requirements and successfully pass the Design-Build Practitioners’ Exam will be permitted to use the acronym DBIA after their name, indicating they have been designated as a Design-Build Professional.

This distinction will further support the design-build industry by promoting design-build as a project delivery system, in addition to giving DBIA and design-build a more credible voice in governmental affairs.

Continuing education requirements and certification are certainly not limited to technical professionals in the industry. The Society for Marketing Professional Services (SMPS) not only offers a comprehensive continuing education program, but the organization also provides a certification program for professionals who market in the built and natural environments.

The Certified Professional Services Marketer (CPSM) is recognized as an individual who has met a rigorous standard of expertise in marketing professional services. To receive the CPSM designation, marketers must meet experience application requirements, as well as pass a 150-question certification exam.
The Society’s certification program raises the professional standards and stature of marketing and business development in the design and construction industry, encourages self-assessment by offering guidelines for achievement in the profession and enhances the credibility of the profession in the industry.

Once achieving the designation, CPSMs are required to accumulate a minimum of 50 continuing education units (CEUs), equivalent to 50 hours, over a period of three years. These units must fall within the six domains of practice — Marketing Research, Marketing Plan, Client and Business Development, SOQs/Proposals, Promotional Activity and Information, Resource, and Organizational Management. Obtaining these CEUs can be accomplished through any SMPs local or national meeting, as well as those offered by other industry organizations such as AIA, AGC or PSMJ.

As the dollars for school construction flow throughout the next decade, certification and continuing education programs will increase in response to associations owners, designers and contractors alike seeking professional growth and quality control.

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