Emerging Professional

Emerging Blend of Degrees, Certification, and Professional Development: Impact on A/E/C/ firms

Continuing Professional Development Conference

Today many A/E/C/ firms have established professional development programs. These were created to address the continuing professional development (CPD) of their staff, certification programs and state licensure Mandatory Continuing Education (MCE) requirements. A few progressive firms extend their programs to their clients and peers through cooperative programs with associations and universities.

For decades there were only a few firms that encouraged professional development or had organized mentoring programs for their staff, but those firms were the exception and not the rule. In 1995 the American Institute of Architects (AIA) implemented MCE requirements of their members. Within ten years most state licensing boards began requiring MCE for licensure for registered architects, engineers, interior designers, and landscape architects. The number of industry related certification programs, such as those offered by AWI,IFMA,ICBO,NFSA,NKBA,and LEED also expanded during this period. Professional development began to take on a new importance.

What was lacking during the 1990’s, role models of how the A/E/C firms should adjust to the changing CPD environment? No longer is that the situation for A/E firms. One solution from 1997 - 2008 – the AIA Continuing Education System (CES) Award for Excellence program The AIA/CES award program not only recognized firms for their commitment to internal CPD, the award program also provided a roadmap for all firms to achieve professional development success. The AIA/CES award program was a blend of the Malcolm Baldrige award and education standards established by International Association for Continuing Education ( IACET). The AIA/CES award criteria involved a detailed review of the firm’s education strategy, planning and analysis, design, implementation, delivery, evaluation and the improvement process of their professional development programs.

At first only large firms had the resources to build these types of programs. Large firm award winners included NBBJ; HOK; FreemanWhite; Rosser International; Gresham, Smith and Partners; Einhorn Yaffee Prescott; Mithun; Cannon Design; and Lord Aeck & Sargent. During the last several years of the award some mid-sized firms such as Rogers Krajnak Architects, Inc and Marshall Craft Associates, Inc. also met the standards and won the award. Turner Construction was the first to achieve the honors for creation of their online education efforts following the standards of the International Learning Unit (ILU).

Now added into the mix are a few online certificate or certification programs such as those found on UGotClass that are developed by associations, colleges and A/E firms. Don’t forget the free online management courses from leading universities such as Stanford, Yale, MIT, Harvard, Berkeley and other colleges. While the Boston Architectural College offers an online Sustainable Design degree, RedVector delivers sustainable design courses created by University of Tennessee faculty for professional in the A/E/C industry. What’s coming? Look for A/E firms to offer online professional practice education using their own adjunct college faculty’s to reach out their clients globally, 24/7.

The Emerging Blend of Degrees, Certification, and Professional Development: Impact on Associations

Certificates: A growing trend

A service that many associations offer is continuing professional education (CPE) for their members and the profession, trade or industry that the association represents. These offerings are delivered in a variety of formats. Among those formats, the growing trend to also offer a specialized certificate program or a profession related certification program. These certificates and certifications are becoming widely recognized and accepted by professionals, employers and government agencies. For many the certification has replaced the degree for those who wants to get the promotion or a raise and at a cost generally much expensive than the college degree.

Keeping the definition simple, certificate programs are generally limited in scope of the subject matter, time and accountability. Certificate programs can be as simple as a one day, one class program or they may go for a week or a month. Certificates are generally awarded based upon completion of the course or a limited series of courses. Generally there is no accountability on the part of the association that is offering the certificate about what is actually learned, only that the individual attended the class or program about a given topic.

Associations that offer specialties of Certification are more focused upon continuing professional development (CPD). of the membership and related industry. Certification programs are generally longer, running several months, possibly as much as a year. Certification may be offered after completing one long class or a series of shorter classes. Additionally, many certification programs require updates or renewals every few years. Associations are placing their reputations on the fact that those who complete a certification will have measurable knowledge or skills that are taught in the framework of the certification program.

Associations are not chartered to offer degrees, but some associations similar to the National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA) are working closely with colleges like the Alexandria Technical and Community College to incorporate their certification program into the college program. Other examples of blended cooperation include West Virginia University offering their Forensics Science Initiative (FSI) program in collaboration with the National Institute of Justice. And there is theInternational Facility Management Association (IFMA) offering their certification programs, Facility Management Professional (FMP), Sustainability Facilities Professional (SFP), and their Certified Facility Manager (CFM) program in collaboration with various community colleges across the country. These are all examples of the emerging blend of college degrees, certificate and certification programs, and continuing professional development.

The Emerging Blend of the Degree, the Certification, and Professional Development: The overview

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We often hear that change is constant. In yesterday’s issue of the Washington Post was an article on education, “An alternative to high-cost college?" A major focus of the article was about how start-up companies are providing free or low priced programs are designed to compete against the expense of a college degree program. This article is yet another statement about the current assault on the expense of obtaining a degree in higher education and the perceived value of that degree. While the Post article focused mainly on higher education, this is just the tip of the transition. There is a related larger issue that needs our attention, the emerging blend of college degrees, certificate and certification programs, and continuing professional development.

In their book, Nine Shift that was published in 2004, the authors William Draves and Julie Coates introduced to us the changes that were beginning to occur in our society because of the acceptance and use of the internet. They described changes that were just beginning to occur in our approach to work, in our life styles, and in our approach to education. As the Washington Post article describes the situation, we are now well into the middle of the transition described in Nine Shift. So, where are we now? What'€™s the current landscape?

Related to formal education MIT, Harvard and others have used the internet to design a new education landscape. The Washington Post article sited MITalong with other universities as pioneers for offering open courseware. To date there are more than 15,000 online open courses provided by more than 250 institutions. Suddenly, what had been the exclusive domain of courses for the purpose of receiving college degrees become part of anyone'€™s opportunity for continuing professional development (CPD). In their association'€™s official publication, Training + Development, the American Society of Training and Development (ASTD) indicated that in 2010 more new online courses were being developed by companies than traditional classroom courses. Online companies such as Ron Blank, RedVector, AECDaily, Saylor.com, P2PU are using college faculty to develop and on offer online CPD. And don'€™t forget McDonald'€™s Hamburger University or the Disney Institute.

Throw into the mix a few online certificate or certification programs offered by associations, community colleges and technical schools. Suddenly the lines between degrees, certifications, and professional development begin to blur. You now have a real conundrum. How do you sort through what I refer to the "€œterrible T's" - Turf, Trust and Tradition. Who is supposed to offer what to whom? Who can you trust? And, who are these people – have they ever offered education before?

So, what’s next? What can we expect? In the upcoming series of the “emerging blend of college degrees, certificate and certification programs, and continuing professional development” we will offer papers specific to the impact on higher education, associations, firms, product manufacturers and the workforce.

Is it Knowledge or Education? And does it matter?

For many associations this has become a real quandary. At first glance it should be easy to distinguish. Just ask what kind of service is your association trying to provide to your members? Look at the mission statement of the association. Then look at the association’s strategic business goals and these should help clarify, define, and provide direction. This is easy, right?

Yet with the continuing changes involving self-paced learning, eLearning, and social media, this issue has become more complex, not less. So let me first try to establish a framework for knowledge and education as defined by Wikipedia.

"Knowledge is a familiarity with someone or something, which can include facts, information, descriptions, or skills acquired through experience or education. It can refer to the theoretical or practical understanding of a subject. It can be implicit (as with practical skill or expertise) or explicit (as with the theoretical understanding of a subject); it can be more or less formal or systematic."

"Education in its general sense is a form of learning in which the knowledge, skills, and habits of a group of people are transferred from one generation to the next through teaching, training, or research. Education frequently takes place under the guidance of others. Any experience that has a formative effect on the way one thinks, feels, or acts may be considered educational."

My observation has been that there are two very different directions that an association can take when establishing a learning strategy, and faced with the decision between offering knowledge sharing opportunities and delivering education to their members.

Model one for an association; offer the most up-to-date information and research data to their members so that the members can be more knowledgeable and competitive in their profession or industry. This could be open source information that encourages the membership to stay current and use the association as a first source and/or reliable source. The emphasis here is on the benefit to the member. Simultaneously, the association should be providing free information to the public and related industry. Through free and/or inexpensive (to members) use of a webcast, podcast, course, workshop, conference, convention, online open forum, etc… the association should promote the values of the association and the professional services that the association's membership base represent. This model works best when the membership does not have any form of mandatory requirement to maintain their knowledge standards.

Model two for an association; deliver education to their members so that their members can be the knowledge leaders in their industry or profession. This approach generally provides additional benefits for the members, usually when the courses, webcasts, workshops, conferences, conventions, online forums, etc., meet the association’s professional standards or credential requirements. It may even meet another related professional organization'€™s credential maintenance requirements, or more likely a state licensing board'€™s mandatory continuing education (MCE) requirement. The downside to the association'€™s members, as much as the member may expect and want it, education is not free. Someone has to pay for the development and the delivery of the education. In one form or another, these expenses are passed on to the members and even more so to the non-member and stakeholders. Strict standards are set for knowledge to be qualified as education.

For an association the difference between knowledge and education comes down to several key questions:
1. What is the mission of the association?
2. What are the association’s strategic business goals?
3. If the association wants to provide education, how will the association cover their development and delivery expenses?

Virtual Curriculum: A program design solution for A/E/C firms.

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The responses were interesting and varied when last month I submit this series of questions to more than a dozen online professional discussion groups.

“Does anyone have an example of a virtual curriculum based upon an individual’s subject matter interest rather than group subjects or topics? Is success measured based upon the participant’s mastery of the subject or some type of norm scores? Are the results tied to work performance, pay, or certification?

Quickly, a definition of “virtual” needed to be established. It was generally agreed in most of the discussion groups that “virtual” meant “online.” Bill Brunk, Ph.D asked the question on the CLO Magazine discussion group, “ I wonder if you might not be confusing two concept here: self-directed learning and virtual (online) learning.” Dr. Brunk brought up a good point and I thought we were beginning to address the question but the largest number of immediate responses came from consultants and schools who obviously were trying to market their online courses. If they bothered to look, I too offer online classes on my website– but that did not really address the questions.

To clarify I stated that I wanted to explore the curriculum definition that relates to a set of courses constituting an area of specialization, where curriculum is built around the individual’s interest rather than the institutions offerings. I was looking for more than simply saying we (the association/consultant/university) give online degrees or provide certification in...(fill in the blank).

From the TED discussion group Donald R. (Chip) Levy, a former Senior Director of Professional Development at the AIA responded with, “In common practice, many think of a curriculum as a generally linear, organized learning path to some goal (degree, certification, specialist credential, etc.). For me, the interesting twist has less to do with getting one's ticket punched at the end of a process, and more to do with building a thoughtful, if idiosyncratic, learning program that continually moves each learner toward evolving performance excellence and (career) success. The resources can be from a variety of sources, focused on a variety of KSAs, employing a variety of delivery channels and media, and uniquely aggregated for each person. It is an ongoing, evolutionary prospect -- a "lifelong curriculum" that guides "lifelong learning" as we progress through our careers.”

In conclusion, I believe that technology allows us to expand our learning options in a format where we can pick the one that works best for us. If I take courses at my own discretion I would be reluctant to call that a curriculum. In order for the learning to become a curriculum I would suggest that the process follows a guided path, such as one outlined by a negotiated contract. I would advocate however that the curriculum options are greatly expanded when the learning process is not limited or restricted to just the courses offered by the school, the association or a business. The instructor or consultant thus becomes a learning adviser - guiding the learner toward agreed upon learning goals.

The International Learning Unit (ILU) holds new relevancy in the age of the Internet

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As almost everyone who works in the field of continuing education, professional development or organizational development knows - the continuing education unit (CEU) was the model for measurement most frequently used during the 20th century. This time based model worked well in the industrial age. Unfortunately the CEU model hasn’t changed, nor has it kept up to date while our global cultures have changed. So what can improve, update or replace the CEU? The International Learning Unit (ILU) developed in the 21st century to address the changing needs of continuing and professional education in the age of the Internet.

According to Wikipedia the “International Learning Unit (ILU)” is an outcome based measurement of learning designed for lifelong learning activities. The ILU is a competency based approach to measuring learning education courses. The ILU is an alternative measurement and standard to the time based measured courses. The ILU measurement can be used to provide evidence of completion of continuing education requirements mandated by certification bodies, professional societies, or governmental licensing boards.

The ILU was designed for the needs of the 21st century. Instead of recording seat time in class the ILU measures the knowledge and skills of the participants. The ILU adopts well to web based education that has begun to warp, change, and reshape time as it relates to learning. Unfortunately all of the rules and laws are currently written measuring the professionals success in time spent at the event. Does this still make sense in your continuing education or certification program to measure seat time – when there might not even be a seat used? Isn’t it time to adapt the International Learning Unit?

Evaluation and Improvement – The firm’s 7th key to quality continuing professional education

The question that I like to raise, "what does your firm do with the information collected after having employees evaluate each course upon completion?" Does your firm require course evaluations from each participant before certificates or credit is awarded? Does your firm use a competency based learning approach that ties into performance and bonus pay? Does your firm use a systematic approach to annual or semi-annual review of the overall education program? Does your firm integrate the results of the evaluations into the firm’s business plans? In order to establish a quality education professional education program you should have answered either “yes,” or answered, “We are working on all of these questions.”

It is amazing that firms spent time and effort to provide some type of an evaluation form for their employees and clients at the end of a training session and then do not use the results for improvement of the either the courses, instructors, staff performance, or business improvement. The opportunities for improvement within the firm are great. The collected information can be used to improve future course offerings, content, instructors, and delivery methods. Forward thinking firms can use the results to improve their firm’s product or services. They can also improve their firm’s marketing and promotion by having clients participate in select sessions.

Your firm could build a system that continually evaluates all of the courses and the employees upon completion of the courses. Curriculum could be developed from the results of the evaluations. Faculty or instructors could be developed from a selection process involving high performing employees. Performance improvement could be measured, evaluated and adjusted according to the business needs of the firm. Internal instructors, staff and human resources/training department staff could receive instantaneous feedback on what needs to improve, and maybe even how to improve. Use the information you collect to continually improve your continuing professional education courses and your business. Who knows, it might even help in the firm’s recruitment efforts when emerging professionals discover that the firm is serious about professional development.

Placement By Design

"PLACEMENT BY DESIGN, Inc. is an A/E/C Design Industry-focused career placement and consulting services firm, specializing in the placement of technical and non-technical A/E/C industry professionals. Our mission is to join design firms and design professionals together - resulting in quality placement services for satisfied employers and employees.

SERVICES:

The 6th Key for a Firm: Implementation and delivery of professional education

For most firms the big question is how committed is the firm toward promoting continuing education for their employees? Assuming that the leadership of the firm is committed to the professional growth of their employees then assessment of employees and firm needs, analysis of the data, and setting measurable objectives are the basics to insuring that implementation of the best process will succeed.

There is no shortage of eager education providers and consultants available, firms should have little difficulty matching education to needs. Many firms that have successful internal professional education programs start by forming and education committee that handles the administration functions of need assessment, selection, implementation, delivery format and other administrative type functions. Generally a staff member is volunteered to handle the facilitation of these duties. As a rule of thumb, if the firm has more than 50 employees the position could be half time with pay or shift of billable hour responsibility. When the firm reaches 100 employees it is time to consider committing to a full time staff person to coordinate the responsibilities of education.

What use to be predominantly a choice between sending staff somewhere externally for training or allowing vendors and consultants to come into the firm has radically changed these last 5-10 years. The use of the internet changed everything and has opened up many new possibilities for adding new delivery formats of education to the firm’s staff. Surprisingly, a hot issue now is what policies are needed to “control” the use of the internet by employees. While cost is the excuse often given for not using new technologies, control of employee’s use of time is more often the concern. Some firms have embraced the new technology and invest in expensive LMS tools. However, there are many solutions available today that are inexpensive that firms could use for implementation and delivery of planned employee education. Other firms withdraw from the technology tools completely and block access to social media tools such as Facebook and limit delivery format types like flash. The education committee needs to match the firm’s strategic plan, with employee needs, and delivery formats. There are so many options available that a blended approach should be seriously considered. Internal technology policies should be realistic and open to considering what are the firm’s education needs. You can either educate your staff or spend time recruiting and training replacements. Identify a qualified staff member and provide the direction and support necessary to maximize on the opportunities. There are now four generations in the workplace. They don’t all learn the same way. Be flexible!

The Fifth Key for Firms to Successful Education Courses: Marketing and Promotion.

The Fifth Key for Firms to Successful Education Courses: Marketing and Promotion.
The emphasis for most firms is internal professional development of their own staff. Those firms that think strategically will include key clients when it is appropriate to share knowledge and information on common critical elements of a project during their training sessions. Even though most training is internal for firms I still want to highlight the fact that there are two actions that need attention as the firm builds their education programs, marketing and promotion.

Be sure that your firm’s education strategic plan is integrated into the business marketing plan. As part of the strategic development process, include a targeted needs assessment of not only your staff but one that includes the education needs of your clients as well. For your firm to be most effective your staff will need to be aware of the knowledge level of your clients related to the projects you are working on together. Do your clients need to have your staff teach them through each step of the project or merely inform them of your progress as you work through the scope of work? If you find that your staff consistently needs to train your clients then you need to be sure that your staff is knowledgeable about the subject and know how to train your client. How does this become a part of the firm’s marketing plan? Your trained staff becomes a selling point.

During the past several years, in large part due to the economy most firms have had to alter their approach to offering internal education to their staff. Most firms cut back on staff support, others released their education staff, and still other firms cut out the budget for education entirely. According to Jill Faulkenberry, PHR, Director of Human Resources at the architecture firm FreemanWhite, Inc., firms have had to reduce their education efforts and become smarter about how they offer professional development. I asked Jill, with four offices, Charlotte, NC, San Diego, CA, Nashville, TN, and Leeds, UK how do you communicate what, when, where, how and why staff should take internal classes. Jill stated that even with an award winning sophisticated intranet system FreemanWhite relies on the basics. Jill says the firm uses staff meetings to promote important upcoming training; those the firm leadership believes support the mission and/or culture. The most widely used promotion method is email and the notice taped next to the coffee machine. For the FreemanWhite Academy – a structured program that is integrated into the employee’s performance appraisal and promotions, the classes are promoted on the FreemanWhite internal website and internal newsletter. Jill stresses, “keep the promotion timely, accurate and simple.”

As the Director of the FreemanWhite Academy Jill realized that sometimes it is better to let others provide support and assistance. Thinking strategically FreemanWhite wanted to share some of their in-house developed courses with the rest of the design and construction industry. To achieve this goal FreemanWhite Academy partnered with AEC Daily to market and promote some of their online classes.

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