What used to be referred to as an approaching trend is now becoming an inescapable reality: “A standard statistic these days is that one-third of all the people in facilities management and building maintenance or engineering will be gone in less than five years due to retirement. People aren’t saying, ‘It’s going to happen.’ They’re saying, ‘It’s happening; it’s happening now, ’ ” says Larry Vanderburgh, vice president of customized and workforce programs at Arnold, MD-based BOMI Institute. “There’s going to be a tremendous need for [professionals] who have credentials, are competent, and know what they’re doing.”
With this inevitable shift in the workforce, there will be some significant roles to fill. Read on to discover how tomorrow’s professionals (your future peers) are preparing for real life in the classroom. And to make sure your skills stand out in the crowd: Buildings unmasks professional designations and certifications available to today’s practitioners and conveys helpful tips from industry organizations on positioning your career for success – both now and in the future.
Your Up-and-Coming Colleagues
What are they learning?
Bill Sims, director of undergraduate studies for Ithaca, NY-based Cornell University’s Facility Planning and Management program, has had a vision for college- and university-level facilities management programs since he started Cornell’s in the early 1980s. “[Industry-wide], we needed to start a string of programs in facilities management; it didn’t make sense for a true profession to depend on other professions to prepare its entry-level people. You can’t expect architecture schools or business schools to train facilities people,” emphasizes Sims. “Students are now prepared in the knowledge areas that are necessary to be a facility manager, whereas most currently practicing facility managers have a degree in architecture or engineering or an MBA. They approach facilities from that perspective and then have to learn (on the job, through conferences, etc.) all the other skills.”
Mike Hoots, program coordinator at Colorado State University-Pueblo’s Facilities Management and Technology Studies Program, agrees that the introduction of facility management programs has been highly beneficial: “One of the nice things about having facility management as a program now is that when a student decides to go into facility management, it’s something they really want to do. Our students are very focused. When they get into the classroom, it’s not, ‘I wonder if I’m ever going to use this stuff again?’ It’s, ‘I know why I’m taking this course and I know how I’m going to use it in the future.’ That’s very powerful for a lot of the students,” he says.
With new industry-related programs popping up across the United States, the Houston-based International Facility Management Association (IFMA) has developed a set of standards to recognize quality college- and university-level facility management curricula. Programs interested in recognition status conduct a thorough self-study, reviewing items such as course subject matter; program emphasis, mission, and goals; faculty experience; student evaluation; available facilities and equipment; and admission standards. After the self-study is completed, results are sent to IFMA, where the recognition committee then assesses the provided information; offers feedback and advice; and, if necessary, gives the college or university a chance to make adjustments. Once the self-study is satisfactorily completed, the committee votes on program recognition. If the vote is successful, the program must update self-study information and undergo the voting process every six years to ensure compliance. “We constantly review our curriculum to make sure that we’re in compliance with these standards,” says Sims. (See “Call to Action” in Part 2 for a full list of IFMA Recognized Programs.)
Today’s programs dedicated solely to facility and property management are coaching students on the latest in ergonomics, the ADA, tenant attraction and retention, environmental issues, outsourcing, and energy management. They’re honing communication skills; mastering ins and outs of lease negotiations and transactions; learning software programs and database management techniques; discussing alternative workplace strategies; and studying accounting and economics. Technology is also a hot topic in coursework. “We now have much more emphasis on computer technology and CAFM software, as well as space planning and interior design programs. [Our students] have a very strong background in building technology and CAD as well,” says Mel Kantor, professor, Big Rapids, MI-based Ferris State University Architectural Technology and Facilities Management Department.
“More and more courses integrate technology. When I first [came to Colorado State], students were giving presentations on overhead slides. Now, every student does presentations on PowerPoint with all kinds of multimedia integration,” agrees Hoots. Courses even have technology integrated into teaching methods. He explains that when his students learn about budgetary concepts, for example, they’re expected to demonstrate skills in Excel using features such as pivot tables. “Every class integrates technology, and how that technology is used as a tool to get more productivity, efficiency, and effectiveness out of what you do as a facility manager,” he says.
To ensure that students in the classroom are exposed to the latest in new developments and procedures, Kantor explains that Ferris State University consults with an advisory committee comprised of industry professionals when making changes to its program. The university also encourages student input during curriculum development.
What will tomorrow’s professionals bring to the industry?
You know they’re going to be well-educated – but what will these forthcoming facilities professionals bring to the business? How will they affect the outlook of the industry? “They feel they’re more adaptable to change. ‘We can do it all’ is a comment directly from a student. ‘We know how to use available resources and how to find what we need. We’re very well-rounded.’ Those are other comments they use,” says Kantor. “When [the students] go into a firm, they go in there running. It takes very little time for them to adapt to the culture of the organization.”
Sustainability and energy conservation are two topics Hoots identifies as differentiators with future professionals. Their increased awareness of green design and planning allows them to incorporate that concept into the decision-making process. “In a lot of places now, it’s ‘We don’t do anything without considering cost, budget, and schedule.’ Instead, we want [the students] to add another element: ‘We don’t make any decisions without considering environmental impacts.’ That’s what the younger students are going to bring to the workplace,” he emphasizes.
Facility management graduates of 2004 and beyond list the wide variety of responsibilities as a strong lure to the industry. The possibility of working with people, technology, and mechanical/electrical systems – combined with an emphasis in management and the different challenges that materialize every day – captivates this fresh group of professionals. “That’s the kind of generation they are,” says Hoots. “They’re not the nine-to-five, clock-watching, sit-behind-a-desk-and-do-the-same-thing-day-after-day employees. There’s a blurring of the lines between work and being away from work. It’s not, ‘Work is a place I have to go.’ It’s: ‘Work is a destination I want to go. If I don’t want to work somewhere, I’m going somewhere else.’ They’re not satisfied with the thought that work is not a fun place to be. They want to enjoy work and enjoy being where they are eight or 10 hours a day.”
Along with this new FM generation comes the possibility for a reinvented message concerning facilities management. “This group is very image-conscious. When they say, ‘I’m a facility manager,’ the image of what that is means a lot to them. It’s going to be important to project the image of the industry in a very professional and positive way, be it property management or facility management,” emphasizes Hoots.
Not all of the industry’s students head for these programs fresh out of high school, however. Many schools report that adults with work experience sometimes choose to go back to school and complete a degree in a facilities-related program. Although an experienced employee completing an FM degree program isn’t an everyday occurrence, Hoots, Kantor, and Sims all agree that distance learning and online second degree options are going to make higher education an increasingly viable option for experienced workers.
Continued on Page 2
Call to Action
Want to find out more about college- and university-level facilities management programs? Contact these IFMA Recognized Programs:
Brigham Young University
Facilities Management Program
Jeffery L. Campbell
230H Snell Building
Provo, UT 84602
Colorado State University-Pueblo
Facilities Management & Technology Studies
Michael L. Hoots, PE, CFM, CFMJ
2200 Bonforte Blvd.
Pueblo, CO 81001-4901
Facility Planning and Management
William R. Sims, Ph.D., CFM
E214 Martha Van Rensselaer Hall
Ithaca, NY 14853
Ferris State University (www.ferris.edu/htmls/colleges/technolo/arch_facil.htm)
Architectural Technology & Facilities Mgmt.
Ferris State University College of Technology
Melvin A. Kantor, AIA, CFM
915 Campus Dr./Swan 312
Big Rapids, MI 49307
Have specific questions regarding the designations and certifications listed in this article? These organizations are ready to provide you with some answers:
Building Owners and Managers Institute (BOMI)
Customer Representative Team
1521 Ritchie Highway
Arnold, MD 21012
Institute of Real Estate Management (IREM)
Customer Service Department
430 N. Michigan Ave.
Chicago, IL 60611
(800) 837-0706 ext. 4650
International Facility Management Association (IFMA)
Megan Schlaack, Certification Manager
1 E. Greenway Plaza, Ste. 1100
Houston, TX 77046-0194