By Roger W. Liska, EdD, FAIC, CPC, FCIOB, FRICS, PE
This is the first in a series of articles recognizing AIC certification university testing sites. These sites are being recognized for their long-term dedication to not only providing their students with the opportunity of obtaining the Certified Associate Constructor (CAC) Level I professional certification but also enhancing the level of professionalism in the construction industry.
All of the university programs we will spotlight in this series have experienced an increased level of visibility and credibility as a result of serving as an AIC test site.
– Today, we spotlight the Louisiana State University (LSU) Bert S. Turner Department of Construction Management (CM). LSU Construction is one of the leading departments in the country, thanks to its deep commitment to serving the needs of construction management students.
The contributors to this article included Charles Berryman, Ph.D., CPC, who serves as Chair of the Department of Construction Management, and Rudy Comeaux, President of Infrastructure for Lemoine Company in New Orleans, CM undergraduate alumnus, and member and past President of the Department’s Construction Industry Advisory Council (CICA).
Overview of the LSU Department of Construction Management
The Department of Construction was first established in 1976 with 180 students and 39 graduates. The Construction Management program was first accredited by ACCE in 1982 and remains accredited to date.
In 1995, the Department of Construction was renamed the Department of Construction Management. And in February 2015, it became a named department – the Bert S. Turner Department of Construction Management. The LSU Construction Department now houses:
- 13 tenure/tenure track faculty
- 5 Professionals in Residence
- 9 professional staff
- 3 adjuncts
- 3 federal research centers
Currently, the department has six online MicroCreds (a three-course series) through Continuing Education, online Undergraduate Certificate in Construction Management, Bachelor of Science in Construction Management (online and campus delivery), online Post Baccalaureate in Construction Management, online Post Baccalaureate in Faculties Management, Master of Science in Construction Management (online and campus delivery), and a campus Doctor of Philosophy in Construction Management.
Enrollments now exceed 1,700 students across all programs, and graduation numbers now exceed 340 annually.
LSU Construction: Great History of Serving as a CAC Certification Examination Test Site
LSU’s Department of Construction Management has been administering the CAC examination for over 10 years. During that time, about 1,500 students have been tested.
LSU Construction Management faculty and Department administration, with support from their Construction Industry Advisory Council (CIAC), have realized the value of having their students take the exam and become certified as a critical ingredient in the growth and success of their careers in the construction industry.
Now, the department requires that all undergraduate students take the CAC examination, which they administer twice a year. In addition, the Department’s CIAC subsidizes the cost of taking the exam for all students.
Preparation for the exam starts at the beginning of a student’s time in the program. Students learn about the importance and value of professional certification and the requirements to take the CAC examination in their Introduction to Construction course as well as other courses.
The requirement to take the exam counts for 30% of the student’s final grade in their capstone course. Those students who pass the exam receive the full 300 points toward their final grade. Those who don’t earn a percentage (test score/300) toward their final grade.
LSU Construction’s Commitment to Professional Certification
The LSU Construction Management Department clearly demonstrates its commitment to having all of its students pass the CAC exam. Primarily, LSU Construction dedicated both time and resources to help students become successful.
Additionally, students are given one week off prior to the administration of the CAC exam to study for it. During this time, the Department makes available AIC’s online study materials.
Furthermore, the Department faculty have developed a senior exit examination based on the ACCE accreditation construction outcomes. Students are required to take it as a way to more effectively prepare to take the CAC certification exam.
A student’s score on the senior exit exam counts for 20% of their final capstone course grade. So, in the end, preparing for and taking the CAC exam counts for 50% of the student’s final grade in the capstone course. This comprehensive test preparation process has resulted in some pass rates that have exceeded national averages.
Leveraging the Exam to Measure Academic Performance
Not only does LSU’s undergraduate program require all students to take the CAC exam, but it also uses the resulting scores on the exam as direct measures for assessing each student’s mastery of the appropriate ACCE outcomes as part of the accreditation process.
The Department has found that doing so reduces the amount of work required to prepare for future ACCE accreditation visits and provides them with a more objective (third-party) assessment of the academic performance of their students.
To demonstrate their acknowledgment of the credibility of the CAC and CPC Level II certifications offered by AIC, the Construction Management Department is the first in the nation to accept the CAC and CPC as evidence of prior learning assessment (PLA).
Depending on certification and degree program, a student could obtain up to 10 course credits (30 credit hours) prior to entering the degree program.
Construction Industry Commitment to Having Students Become Certified
Dr. Berryman has and continues to devote a lot of time and effort to help improve the image of the construction profession, including serving in leadership positions on many national accrediting and certifying governing bodies, including ACCE and the AIC Constructor Certification Commission (CCC).
“The AIC certification is a powerful tool for hiring quality employees,” says Dr. Berryman. “When recruiters hire our students who have successfully passed the AIC CAC Level I exam, it assures them that their new employee has firmly grasped the core fundamentals of a constructor.”
Dr. Berryman is fully aware of the challenges of convincing his students of the importance of preparing for and taking the CAC examination and becoming certified if passing it. And he has taken several additional measures to help overcome this challenge besides including its importance as subject matter in many of the undergraduate courses.
1. Dr. Berryman has members of the CIAC discuss the importance of taking the examination and becoming certified as part of the Department’s senior exit interview process.
2. Before the opening of LSU’s Career Employment Interview Days, as part of Dr. Berryman’s welcoming comments, he provides an overview of AIC and certification.
3. Dr. Berryman encourages company representatives to ask students about their awareness of the CAC and CPC certifications and encourages them to attain both certifications as part of their career growth.
Dr. Berryman indicated that many of the companies hiring its graduates also encourage, require, and/or reward an employee to become professionally certified, including being awarded the CAC and CPC qualifications.
One example is the required new employee three-year rotation program at Lemoine Company. According to Rudy Comeaux, who has been active with the Department’s Construction Industry Advisory Council for over 15 years, this is a very structured program where new employees spend time in various sectors of the company’s business, including estimating and scheduling, project management, and field supervision.
As part of the process, the employees are required to pass the CAC examination and become certified (unless they already did before coming to the company). Mr. Comeaux indicated that the company has found that this process demonstrates their interest in the success of their employees, thus resulting in higher retention rates.
This process also provides the company with more competent professional project managers who can contribute to the company. This effort is especially important during a current period of growth when they are experiencing an increased volume of work from existing clients.
“The AIC CAC Level 1 exam adds value to our organization through the reinforcement of skills and knowledge our entry-level Project Engineers gain through their educational path and training within our rotational program, LEMOINE’s Engineering Advancement Program (LEAP),” according to Mr. Comeaux.
“This exam supports our employees’ individual growth and development as best-in-class builders. This certification, along with all other training our Project Engineers complete, supports our ability to serve our customers and exceed their expectations on every project.”
AIC Appreciates Our Partnership with LSU Construction
The Construction Management Department at LSU exemplifies the value of committing to AIC examinations as a critical element of a student’s educational experience.
The exams verify that a student has the necessary skills and experience to enter the construction industry, ensure they have a deep appreciation for safety and ethics, and create a clear pathway for students to advance in their career.
We appreciate our partnership with LSU Construction to embed the exams into the fabric of their Construction Management degree programs, ensuring students are set up for success throughout their careers.
– Learn how your college or university can participate as an AIC exam testing site. We welcome accredited programs to join with AIC to accelerate constructor excellence.