May/June 2012
Workforce Development

CABA to develop education, training resources for intelligent buildings sector

By Ronald J. Zimmer

Defying the high national unemployment rate, as many as 600,000 skilled positions in the U.S. are unfilled due to the nagging shortage of qualified workers. Many of these positions concern the engineering and manufacturing of heating, air conditioning, ventilation, and building control systems. Based on a 2011 survey of 1,123 executives across the U.S., Deloitte LLP estimates 5% of manufacturing positions are open due to a lack of qualified candidates. Some 67% of U.S. manufacturing executives surveyed last July and August said they are facing a moderate to severe shortage of skilled workers, such as machinists, operators, distributors, and technicians. Another 56% of executives said they expect the problem to get worse in the next three to five years, as baby boomers continue to retire. And 64% of manufacturing executives lament that the lack of skilled workers is making it more difficult to expand their operations or boost productivity.

The Continental Automated Buildings Association (CABA) identified increasing education and training opportunities for the intelligent buildings sector as a priority in the smart buildings roadmap it published in 2007. Existing residential and commercial buildings have ongoing demand for professional building management. The report found that, as existing U.S. building stock becomes more integrated with information and communication technologies, finding qualified people and training them to utilize this new technology would become a pressing issue, along with the provision of on-going education opportunities.

CABA, therefore, created a task force on education and training by the Intelligent & Integrated Buildings Council. An important function of CABA is to educate industry stakeholders and consumers about the advantages of intelligent buildings and the process for creating and maintaining intelligent buildings. CABA believes education should be developed and delivered by third-party stakeholders through certification and training programs. Industry stakeholders in the past have also proposed developing new training roles and certifications such as "building systems architects," "intelligent building commissioning agents," "intelligent building installation and maintenance technicians," and "intelligent building systems operators." While the organization does not have a mandate to maintain professional development certification programs, CABA will support all industry efforts to enhance the delivery of professional development to enhance the workforce.

The task force, led by Jim Sinopoli and Gina Elliott from Smart Buildings, identified the need for a variety of new in-person and online training programs, including intelligent building courses for property owners, developers, architects, and real estate professionals, and has been undertaking the process of developing criteria for new educational programs, which include defining learning goals, developing a curriculum, and determining delivery formats.

CABA will assist the task force by ultimately establishing online resources, which will be targeted at workforce development. The intelligent building industry lacks an in-depth online portal that helps the labor force in this sector upgrade their skills. CABA would aim to curate a list of available educational opportunities from colleges, universities, trade organizations, and third-party vendors.

CABA already collaborates with educational providers to offer professional development. Last year, CABA entered into a memorandum of understanding with the Automation Federation to work on educational improvements, best practices, and methods to improve the working environment of the automation profession.

More recently, CABA entered into an education partner agreement with CoR Advisors to provide valuable technology education to the real estate industry. Under the agreement, CABA contributes to CoR Advisors' webcasts and seminars in order to share the organization's collective knowledge and resources with the real estate community. Areas of focus include: green building solutions, energy management and reporting, advanced lighting strategies, building automation, alternative energy solutions, energy procurement, demand response programs, LEED certification, financial modeling and ROI analysis, intelligent building solutions, and other educational programs.

CABA has also entered into a similar agreement with Realcomm, to provide webinars, and developed intelligent and integrated sessions for past Realcomm events, which focused on technologies that explicitly reduce building costs, increase efficiency and value, and create return-on-investment.

CABA intends to build upon such education arrangements and also continue to pursue its mandate to make education more accessible. We already work closely with educational institutions, including Harvard University, Syracuse University, Pennsylvania State University, Laney College, and Centennial College, who are CABA members. For more information, please go to www.caba.org.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ronald J. Zimmer is president and CEO of the Continental Automated Buildings Association (CABA).