What is a construction professional? This is a difficult question for industry and educators to answer, but it shouldn’t be. That’s why construction professionals are long overdue to develop a set of plans and specifications—for themselves. Without a clear definition of our role today, we can’t develop the professionals of tomorrow.
Everyone knows that you cannot properly construct a building without such documentation; likewise, an individual cannot be an effective manager of construction projects today without a base of specific skills, experience and knowledge.
The role of a construction professional is changing and being defined by many different factions within and outside the industry. Trends indicate that the role of construction manager eventually could be considered simply a paraprofessional who works under the direction of an individual with a state-regulated professional license.
In effect, government entities would place that licensed individual in a position of overseeing all activities associated with construction management operations, such as controlling cost, schedule, quality and safety on projects.
To compound this imprecision, there is a multitude of construction organizations that cater to different philosophies and to the various types of construction work, reacting to change autonomously and, too often, with a single-minded vision. As a result, university educators are pulled in many directions, largely due to the isolation of their construction partners.
Solution? The construction professional needs his or her role clearly defined, a unified voice and a single credentialing process that could lead to licensure.
Each type of profession—be it engineering, accounting, law or the medical field—works hard to improve its respective practice and practitioners. Construction educators and their industry colleagues must work together—with one voice—to make single credentialing a top priority. They could unify the profession by adopting practices and standards to obtain credentials for work that is performed across a wide variety of industry market segments.
Then, educators could organize curricula strategically to prepare construction graduates for proper credentialing that ensures public safety and equality among other licensed industry professionals.
The industry now is taking steps to bring this vision to reality. In a historic event in September, the international Associated Schools of Construction hosted a Construction and Education Summit that brought together attendees from 15 leading construction organizations. They represent hundreds of thousands of professionals who are part of today’s U.S.-based construction industry.
Participating groups ranged from the Associated General Contractors, the Associated Builders and Contractors and the Construction Industry Institute to the American Council for Construction Education, the Project Management Institute and Sigma Lambda Chi, the international construction honor society. While attendees are tied to diverse segments of industry education and practice, they worked together to develop a set of goals and objectives to advance a unified front.
A new task force chaired by representatives from the Construction Management Association of America and American Institute of Constructors will attempt to define the construction professional and their work to create a single credential that potentially could lead to licensure. Plans are for the representatives to meet again in a few months to assess progress.
This is a critical and necessary step toward a set of “plans and specs” to rebuild the construction industry’s image and impact. By demonstrating a commitment to improvement and collaboration now, we will gain a better educated and professionalized workforce in the coming generations of construction graduates.