Technical professionals who seek upward mobility with an MBA degree may please construction industry employers who see more value in their expanded capability. But a broad MBA may not add to industry knowledge and can lure seekers right into a new business.

Now, an engineers’ group and a well-known university are joining forces to steer industry professionals into the first grad school business management program that focuses entirely on how to run–or better run–architecture, engineering and construction firms, and even public agencies.

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  • The American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC) announced Oct. 25 that it is linking with Northwestern University, Evanston, Ill., to create a new graduate degree, the "Master of A/E/C Business Management," which would be available to current industry practitioners with a technical degree and at least one year of on-the-job experience. The program is not geared for current undergraduates. Upon completion of 12 courses, Northwestern’s McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science would convey a Master of Science degree.

    The program would offer industry practitioners business training geared specifically for A/E/C management, "as opposed to a generic MBA program," says ACEC President Dave Raymond. Its program would allow students to take business electives at Northwestern’s prestigious Kellogg School of Management.

    It’s Business. Engineering prof Krizek wants specialists.

    The new master’s program is set to begin next fall as its developers troll for students and work out campus politics between the engineering and business schools. "This is an idea I’ve had for many years," says Raymond J. Krizek, the engineering school’s Stanley F. Pepper Professor of Civil Engineering and a 44-year teaching veteran. "MBAs are not what our people want in this profession. They teach you how to manage a shoe store, but not a construction project."

    Grad students would choose from an array of industry-focused business courses and electives (see chart) that include one course per quarter from the Kellogg school and weekly seminars, says Krizek. Jeffrey Beard, ACEC vice president and director of its Institute for Business Management, touts courses in entrepreneurship and business innovation that he says might help A/E/C firms change markets and project delivery systems.

    Construction Industry-Focused MBA Program Course Offerings   
    • Financial issues for engineers
    • Strategic management for engineers
    • A/E/C entrepreneurship
    • Construction industry technology and the project manager
    • Elective
    • Accounting issues for engineers
    • Sustainability in construction
    • Commercial real estate development
    • International construction
    • E-Business in the construction industry
    • Elective
    • Engineering law
    • Construction business strategy
    • Program management
    • Management of project-centered organizations
    • Computer-integrated project delivery
    • Elective
    Typical electives are:  
    • Construction management
    • Public infrastructure management
    • Business development in the construction industry
    • Project scheduling
    • Infrastructure systems analysis
    • Construction contracts and dispute resolution
    • Building construction estimating
    • Infrastructure facilities and systems
    • Cost engineering and control
    Source: McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science, Northwestern University  

    Faculty from Northwestern’s famed Medill School of Journalism will be tapped for expertise on business communication, and 25 adjuncts from nearby employers such as Pepper Construction Co., Turner Construction Co. and Argonne National Laboratories will offer expertise, according to Krizek.

    ACEC hopes that prospective students, particularly in the Chicago area, can fit late afternoon and evening classes into their work schedules and that employers will cover the program’s cost, says Beard. But the group is not providing individual funding.

    ACEC is having a harder time finding support for the A/E/C business master’s at other universities. Discussions with Boston’s Northeastern University and with Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif., are progressing more slowly. "An MBA in de-sign and construction would be best, but we can’t find faculty sponsorship," Beard says.