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New Dunwoody Facilities O&M Degree Reaches Beyond Maintenance

businessman use of the notebook computer outdoors



By Derek Hillestad

Anyone in the facilities management field knows there are two main issues when it comes to finding and recruiting new facilities professionals to join your department or business.  First, there just are not enough trained workers to choose from as older professionals retire.  Second, the role of the typical facilities manager is evolving so rapidly that many candidates may lack the rounded or up to date skills the job now typically demands. More specialist training and education is needed.

To address these two issues, Twin Cities, Minnesota-based Dunwoody College of Technology sought and was granted approval to launch a two-year associate of applied science degree in facilities operations and management in fall 2018. The program is consistent with the International Facility Management Association’s Facilities Management Accreditation Commission (FMAC) associate degree program standards.

Let's take a closer look.

Technical Plus Soft Skills Approach

Industry education and training is evolving beyond the practices of building maintenance. Maintenance will always be at the core of facilities management, but today’s managers and operations professionals must bring multi-faceted skills to their jobs. They are tasked with asset management, space management, and/or managing a building’s overall safety and security systems. This demands up-to-date knowledge of software management systems as well as the ability to act as a successful conduit between the city, building ownership, utilities providers, civic authorities, and tenants.

Add to all of this the critical role played by increasingly advanced technology in modern facilities management, and the model for educating tomorrow’s professionals must evolve quickly.

Dunwoody College is focusing on creating curriculum that balances this necessary technical knowledge with job-critical soft skills. So while graduates will leave with the ability to work a variety of software programs, including computerized maintenance management systems (CMMS), they will also bring other attributes to their jobs: critical thinking, problem solving, and interpersonal communications. 

Why the Need? Who’s It For?

Our industry is experiencing a large number of senior professionals retiring. We are losing in-field experience at a time when the dynamics and demands of the workplace are also shifting and placing strain on employers. The U.S. Census Bureau reports that 10,000 baby boomers will turn 65 every day until the year 2020. According to The Sloan Center on Aging and Work, by 2026 those numbers point to more than 50 percent of facilities management professionals leaving their positions. 

Clearly, we need to attract and recruit from a broad base of new employees entering the profession and those already in the field. Dunwoody’s facilities operations & management degree is for everyone from high school graduates, to those with prior college experience looking for a better career path, to industry professionals looking to update or enhance their academic backgrounds or qualifications. No prior experience in the field is required. Classes are held in the evening for maximum flexibility.

Curriculum Details

The Dunwoody campus is more than a century old and currently undergoing a series of multi-million-dollar facilities upgrades. What that provides is a unique learning laboratory for facilities students to gain an understanding of how facilities management principles and practices differ from old to new to multi-faceted buildings and campuses. Program components include:

• Computerized maintenance management systems (CMMS)

• REVIT architectural, MEP, structural engineering and construction

• SketchUp computer aided design

• Integrated workforce management systems (IWMS)

• Smart controls, building monitoring systems

• Facility condition assessments

• Property maintenance

• Building operations

The Facilities operations and management degree is a part of Dunwoody’s comprehensive offering in construction sciences and building technology and will benefit from existing lab spaces and faculty in HVAC, electrical, architecture, and construction management.

Interdisciplinary projects, open-concept learning spaces, and shared shops and studios, enable students throughout all the construction sciences programs to learn to work together—both at Dunwoody and in the real world. This collaboration allows students to graduate with not only knowledge of their chosen field, but also a solid awareness of industry trends, best practices, and green and sustainable concepts.

It is this kind of broad-based, fully rounded learning taught in close partnership with industry that should and must become one of the benchmarks toward helping our industry attract and train the highly skilled, tech-savvy and industry-ready workers of tomorrow.

Derek Hillestad served for nine years as director of operations, TCF Bank Stadium. He joined Dunwoody College as senior instructor, facilities management and operations and played a key role in designing the curriculum. He can be contacted at dhillestad@dunwoody.edu 

 


posted on 9/14/2018