By Nicholas Soto, Vice President of Professional Development at the Construction Management Association (CMAA)
From the roads we drive on to the buildings we work in, construction—while ever-evolving—is a constant need. Meeting that need requires a workforce of professionals with a specialized set of skills. Where can these skilled professionals be found? Professional credentials demonstrate high competence and should identify sufficiently experienced and skilled employees. How do industries attract people to get credentialed and join their workforce?
There are nearly 1.3 million active-duty troops and another 800,000 in the armed forces reserve. Nearly 200,000 of those troops transitioned into the civilian workforce in 2018. Many organizations have identified veterans as a source for expanding their industries workforce. When individuals join the military, they are expected to learn and develop continuously. Service members must master the art of adaptability, from learning how to follow orders and complete specific tasks to knowing when to take the initiative and bear responsibility, all in an environment where every decision is critical and individual roles may shift from day to day. These skills are crucial, not only to success in the military, but also in civilian careers.
The military alone will spend more than $88 billion to build and renovate facilities in 2019 as well as train and develop personnel. Nevertheless, military personnel have unique difficulties translating their experience into the civilian workforce because the general population is not routinely exposed to the duties of service members. Many professions do not effectively translate their needs into military skill sets. In the military, the credentials that come before your name, like Captain, Colonel, Sergeant or Lieutenant, are what matter the most. How will an organization educate the military about the value of having a credential after their name?
The National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER) and the Construction Management Association of America (CMAA) have established a strategic partnership with the Society of American Military Engineers (SAME). One of the central goals of that partnership is to collaborate in addressing the workforce issue for veterans and the construction industry. The relationship includes CMAA and NCCER’s participation on a SAME Joint Credentialing Committee, whose mission is to assist uniformed service members to attain credentials while serving in uniform to improve their technical skills and increase their potential for promotion.
The partnership with SAME has developed new relationships with the Army Engineer School, based in Ft. Leonard Wood, Missouri, which now encourages military personnel to acquire credentials from NCCER and CMAA to validate their abilities and skill sets and to aid the transition into civilian life. With the support and advocacy of SAME and the Army Engineer School, both CMAA and NCCER have created initiatives that enhance the military’s ability to utilize industry standards while remaining active duty and building a pipeline of qualified professionals who can now translate their skills to the civilian workforce.
Making the transition from the military to a civilian career can have its challenges but Hard Hat Heroes, the NCCER military initiative, aims to make the move smoother and help translate military skills into credentials recognized in the civilian world. The field experience, values, and leadership skills learned while protecting America translates well into a career as a craft professional and opens doors to successful careers, including executive management, in the construction industry. Hard Hat Heroes provides an online credentialing portal, connections to military-friendly companies and job placement through a partnership with NextOp.
Through the credentialing portal, veterans and military members can receive credit for training they already completed while serving. More than 90 military specialties from Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps are aligned to NCCER modules, including rank-based alignments, which allow veterans to received industry-recognized credentials for their skills. If a veteran is ready to get started in the industry and does not have applicable experience, NCCER and Pearson provide a free online Core Curriculum course that allows them to learn the basics.
In addition to helping veterans apply for credentials, the task alignments were created to help employers understand and recognize skills that service members already possess in various craft areas. They can be utilized as training plans to enhance veterans’ skills once they are hired. By aligning objectives from military training with NCCER’s curricula, these alignments serve as a military-to-construction guide for employers and their human resource departments.
CMAA identified workforce development as a strategic goal in response to the lack of qualified workers entering the field of construction management. SAME endorsed CMAA’s Certified Construction Manager (CCM), encouraging their members to consider the credential for complex capital projects. CMAA became approved as part of the GI Bill and recognized by the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps Credentialing Opportunity Online (COOL) program for reimbursement.
Eliminating the financial barrier is vital for service members who have limited funds and time to apply for reimbursement for credentials and training. CMAA believes that removing the financial barrier into the construction management industry will gain more attention and offer a starting point for these individuals. Having more people with the Construction Manager-in-Training (CMIT) credential earned while in the military builds a more extensive pipeline for industry organizations looking to hire qualified professionals. Like NCCER, CMAA’s CMIT program will allow those serving as active duty, reserves, and in the national guard to complete an online training course and online examination for free. The CMIT gives military personnel the opportunity to earn a credential that can translate their skills into private industry and expand their knowledge of practices according to industry standards.
CMAA and NCCER saw a vital need within the industry and their organizations. The solution was challenging while requiring creating thinking. This initiative is a long-term investment by both organizations. However, by partnering with the military and other industry organizations, they have found an opportunity to attract skilled professionals to the private industry while helping them transfer their abilities through credentialing programs.