Why the right university accreditation matters to me—and it should to you too!
By Marty Garza, Vice President, Higher Education Joeris General Contractors
Many of us who design and build globally remain active with university construction education programs long after graduation. Yes, we have altruistic reasons—to give back to the industry and the institutions that gave us our career starts and to ensure that the next generation of construction professionals receives the highest quality of training to meet challenges not even known. But we do it for self-serving reasons too—to find and groom young talent for our project teams, and to lead and grow our companies into the future.
But it is time for us to boost our involvement beyond individual campuses. One of the most powerful ways to influence the future of our industry is to partner with THE national accreditation process that is—and has been—key to continuous improvement of construction education.
For over nearly 50 years, there has been only one national accrediting body solely dedicated to this field—the American Council for Construction Education (ACCE). It was founded in 1974 as the first construction accrediting body in the US by leaders of the Associated General Contractors (AGC), the Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC), American Institute of Constructors, and other groups, as well as the academic leaders of the Associated Schools of Construction. These visionaries created a structure that not only welcomes input from all construction related associations, it also requires equal participation of industry practitioners and educators on every team visiting schools, on national committees and on the board of trustees.
National accreditation of construction education programs guarantees consistent excellence through rigorous standards put in place and a network of practitioners and academics who ensure they are met. In an experiential field like construction, practitioner input at the national level throughout the entire process is vitally important. Without our active participation, ACCE could not accomplish its important mission to be a leading global advocate of quality construction education.
ACCE now accredits or is reviewing more than 100 post-secondary construction programs to ensure their curricula and undergraduate preparation can meet the demands of this profession and its broad array of participants—general contractors and subcontractors, suppliers, agency construction managers and consultants.
While ACCE standards emphasize the need for foundational education in business, architecture, and engineering, they also recognize the constructor's added need for expertise in means and methods, sequencing and scheduling, communication, estimating, budgeting, contracts, technology applications, ethics, and safety..
More recently, other accrediting alternatives for construction programs have become available. But it is important to recognize that not all accreditation options are created equal. As practitioners, we will be asked to provide input on accreditation alternatives and we need to know the right questions to ask. How long has an agency been accrediting construction programs—and only construction programs? Is the accreditation process and training for site visits open to all industry practitioners regardless of affiliation? Are all construction-related associations invited to have a seat on the agency’s governing board and participate in accreditation decisions at the highest level? Does the agency recognize construction as a separate profession in its own right with a body of knowledge defined by a wide variety of industry representatives? Are the standards independent and demanding, and do they require active engagement of an industry advisory board on every campus?
These are the characteristics we need to insist on for the volunteer and independent body that oversees the quality of education of our future experts and leaders. If one did not already exist, we would advocate to create it.
Fortunately, one does exists in the form of ACCE. But it needs our help. We cannot stand by and assume that only educators or a single construction association will ensure the quality we must have. ACCE is inviting us to sit at the table and have a direct impact on the future of the construction profession to continue the strong partnership that began long ago.
ACCE governance is completely inclusive and transparent, with a structure that welcomes participation and does not keep control to a small few. This joint effort of industry and academia has, for more than four decades, created the gold standard for rigorous construction accreditation in the US, elevated the recognition of construction education on university campuses, and set accredited programs apart.
In an already much fragmented industry, creating additional accreditation options at this time adds nothing to better construction education. If you want to promote quality that will improve the profession, visit www.acce-hq.org to see how you can get involved in a critically important endeavor. Our future literally depends on it.
Marty Garza, vice president of Joeris General Contractors, also serves as vice president of the AGC Education & Research Foundation and represents it on ACCE’s Board of Trustees.