Viewpoint: The Need for Contractor Certification
As constructors working in the largest profession in the U.S., we have a responsibility to effectively manage billions of dollars of work for our clients and ensure that their projects are constructed on time, on budget, safely and in a quality manner.
This requires professionals who have the skills, knowledge and willingness to accept the technical and ethical obligations associated with these responsibilities. While state licensing for architects and engineers provides an increased level of assurance to clients that projects will be designed to meet their needs and protect the safety of the public, certification can do the same for constructors.
As most clients are aware, if a project is to be designed and constructed to meet their needs—no matter what project delivery method is used—without a team of qualified designers and constructors working collaboratively, problems in meeting project goals are inevitable.
Unfortunately, design and construction professionals often have a poor perception of each other’s qualifications and abilities, which continues to hinder a truly collaborative team effort. That’s why it’s critical for constructors to attain professional qualifications equivalent to those of architects and engineers.
Building a New Process
First, a bit of history. Clearly, a need existed in years past for a national third-party professional qualification for construction managers. That’s why, in 1994, representatives of major construction associations and industry executives joined forces to create a new certification.
Their goal was to develop a process that could be applied no matter the type or size of construction company or the project delivery. The resulting organization was called the American Institute of Constructors’ Constructor Certification Commission.
The commission began by developing a two-level national constructor certification. Working with a national test-development organization, the group created two certifications that required individuals to meet educational and experiential qualifications and pass a comprehensive exam.
The first level—Associate Constructor, or AC—recognizes people who have earned an undergraduate degree in construction management from an accredited college or university or who have gained approved construction experience—with or without some formal education—and have passed a comprehensive exam that covers the key skills and knowledge of an entry-level construction manager.
The second level—Certified Professional Constructor, or CPC—recognizes individuals who have earned an undergraduate degree in construction management and have at least four years of experience managing projects.
The CPC level also certifies people who don’t have a CM degree but do have a minimum of eight years’ experience and can pass a comprehensive CM exam.
While CPC certification is relatively new compared with the longevity of state licensing of designers, the industry is beginning to accept it as the only third-party national certification for all types and sizes of contractors, no matter how projects are delivered. The CPC qualification is considered the national equivalent of state licensing for architects and engineers.
Companies that support their people in achieving a CPC level have found the exam to be an effective and independent assessment of an employee’s skills and knowledge. The CPC brand also boosts company marketability to clients and provides added assurance that employees will continue to improve their skills and knowledge.
Many public and private owners recognize the benefits of CPC certification. For example, Clemson University and Texas A&M have placed language in their requests for qualifications and requests for proposals that says they prefer companies with CPCs as part of their project management teams.
Contractor licensing boards in Oklahoma and Texas recognize the CPC qualification as an acceptable credential for performing CM work in their states. Progress continues to be made at the federal level in recognition of CPC certification. The bottom line is that owners say having CPCs on management teams provides an extra level of assurance that projects are being managed in a more professional and ethical manner.
The benefits for individual CPCs are many, including enhancing their image as professionals to clients, employers and the public and improving their career opportunities by setting themselves apart from those who have not earned the certification.
In a recent study of CPCs, a third of them said the qualification helped them get promoted, 20% saw increases in their compensation packages and 20% gained more respect from their peers, employers and clients. In fact, an employer is more likely to trust both the quality and the reliability of work done by a CPC.
That’s because a constructor certification is the mark of a true professional in the industry. It indicates which construction professionals have achieved the educational and professional standards that clients demand. If you currently are in a project-management-related position and have not sought certification, I encourage you to do so.
Becoming certified enhances the image of our profession and raises the bar of practice across the industry. If you own a construction company, I urge you to hire college graduates who have their Associate Constructor designation and to encourage attainment of the CPC by your project-level managers. After all, we want the most qualified people to manage the world’s largest and most complex projects, right?