Many professionals rely on certifications to demonstrate a level of specialized knowledge. For employers, certifications help ensure their workforces are up to speed on the latest procedures, requirements and best practices.
Several innovative commercial design and construction companies encourage employees to pursue certifications through the Construction Specifications Institute (CSI), which offers proof a professional has attained a certain level of education and understanding of construction documents and processes.
Daylighting Solutions, Albuquerque, is one example. The company supports employees who want to pursue CSI certifications by paying for course materials and special preparatory classes. The firm also pays for time off so employees can study for exams.
Rick Lepore of Daylighting Solutions finds his CSI Construction Documents Technology (CDT) certificate improves communication flow from the beginning to the end of a project. “It allows us to be specific when we ask for things, and to be able to provide accurate information for what is needed for a project,” he says.
Certifications also contribute to the company’s marketing efforts, allowing Daylighting Solutions to stand out among its competition. “It’s one of the few things we can do as a product representative to show astuteness to our clients,” Lepore says.
Global architectural products manufacturer YKK AP incorporates certification in its ongoing employee development platform. “The purpose of the program is to advance the quality of our sales organization,” says Oliver Stepe, senior vicepresident of YKK AP America Inc. All field sales representatives have 18 to 24 months to earn CSI’s CDT certificate.
To be promoted to a senior account manager position, YKK’s sales representatives must earn CSI’s CertifiedConstruction Product Representative certification or LEED Accredited Professional credentials from the Green Building Certification Institute.
YKK AP maintains focus on continual training to achieve certification. “We encourage participation in CSI classes, conference calls and a two-day intensive review session to prepare for the CDT examination,” says YKK AP Sales Manager Frank Earley.
Because certification is attached to job classification, YKK AP employees know it has a direct payoff—in title, income and industry knowledge.
“It lets me know that product representatives are serious about what they’re doing,” says architect Scott Whitcraft of St. Louis-based Hastings & Chivetta, a YKK client.
The benefits are not limited to manufacturers and product representatives. Malcolm Pirnie, Inc., a multinational environmental engineering and consulting firm headquartered in White Plains, N.Y., provides in-house support to its employees, consultants and clients taking CSI exams.
“To help our employees prepare, we offer weekly lunchtime review sessions starting in January and concluding with a wrap-up the week before the exam,” says Jim Brown, vice president of construction management services. The lunchtime webinar sessions are accessible to staff nationwide.
More than 1,000 Malcolm Pirnie employees have pursued CSI certifications in the past 11 years. The firm pays exam registration fees for its employees and hosts an intranet website for its CSI program. “We also have a listserve to which we post example questions, which often engender lively and involved discussions when the answers are posted,” Brown says.
Pursuing CSI certification is voluntary for employees. The real value is acquiring knowledge and meeting senior staff who lead the review sessions—reducing risks for Malcolm Pirnie and its clients and improving customer service.
As the design and construction industry evolves—incorporating sustainable products, building information modeling and other advances—it is more important than ever for companies to support employees’ professional development. Certification programs are a worthwhile way to invest in a company’s most important resource: its workforce.