This section provides an overview of Phase I of the Uniform Act Certification Needs Analysis project including a brief project overview, a discussion of project objectives and an outline of the project approach and methodology utilized to meet these objectives.
The Uniform Relocation Assistance and Real Property Acquisition Policies Act of 1970, as amended (Uniform Act) provides the framework, rules and procedures under which private property is acquired for public benefit on projects funded all or in part by Federal funds. Federal, State, and Local Public Agency staff and private consultants who work with or under the Uniform Act are considered to be operating in the arena of “public sector real estate”. These individuals perform a number of roles including appraisal, negotiation with property owners, property acquisition, relocation of displaced property owners and property management of acquired real estate.
Currently, the public sector real estate profession is facing a number of business drivers. These include:
An increasing emphasis on outsourcing of Uniform Act related work by public agencies resulting in:
A need for private sector partners to build staff capabilities. Initially, many private sector organizations relied on staff retiring or leaving public agencies to provide the staffing needed. However, many of these staff are now retiring for the second time from the private sector and the demand for services is becoming more than can be filled by simply relying on retirees from public sector agencies.
A need for public sector staff to develop new skills in contract and project management. Typically, public agency staff may have strong technical skills in their functional area such as appraisal or acquisition but not necessarily project management experience.
An aging work force. A great number of the individuals working in the public sector real estate field are approaching retirement. Thus, there is need to attract new professionals to the field to keep up with the demand for work to be performed. Whereas in the past these new hires may have joined public agencies, a great majority of new hires into the field will likely be with the private sector. However, it is often difficult to recruit new workers into the needed disciplines due to a lack of trained individuals. Because there is an absence of a professional credential for many of the disciplines, competency assessments are particularly challenging for potential employers.
A desire to elevate the standards of the public sector real estate profession. Public sector real estate professionals work closely with staff from a number of other professions who have professional certifications and designations. For example, public sector real estate personnel often work with registered land surveyors. Likewise, those working with or for transportation agencies usually work very closely with professional engineers, while those working in urban development may be working with architects or landscape architects. While some parts of the public sector real estate work force have professional certifications and designations, most notably appraisers, there is not currently a universally recognized credential for public sector real estate professionals similar to the professional engineering license.
A lack of understanding and respect for the roles, responsibilities, and significance of real estate service activities within many Federal, State, and Local Public Agencies. This situation may be due, in part, to the absence of a system that recognizes real estate service providers as “professionals.”
The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), in its role as the lead agency for the Uniform Act, believes one of the ways to mitigate some of the risk associated with these business drivers is through expanded education and training programs that are linked to Uniform Act-based learning requirements. One component of such an education program is a professional certification program for public sector real estate.
To assess the feasibility of defining and implementing a professional certification program for individuals working with or under The Uniform Act, FHWA commissioned a study in the fall of 2003 to evaluate the market value of such a certification.
This project effort was divided into two phases. Phase I included the assessment of the need for a professional certification for public sector real estate professionals, an evaluation of the potential market value of this certification and recommendations concerning the steps required to implement such a certification program if appropriate. A Phase II study could have consisted of a high-level curriculum design of a certification program. The FHWA decided not to initiate a Phase II study.
The Phase I Uniform Act Certification Needs Analysis has the following objectives:
Developing an inventory of state licensing agencies and these agencies licensing requirements including both courses required for licensure and the process for obtaining certification or approval of a course by a licensing agency as being applicable for licensure.
Developing an inventory of existing public sector real estate course offerings by:
Developing an inventory of institutions offering real estate courses and a list of courses being offered by these institutions.
Establishing an inventory of Federal Agency public sector real estate course offerings.
Establishing an inventory of course offerings by various national organizations and associations.
Assessing the market need for a public sector real estate certification by:
Conducting a number of detailed interviews with Federal Agency staff.
Developing and conducting a web-based survey of public sector real estate professionals to assess the market need for a public sector real estate certification.
Conducting a series of three (3) follow-up focus groups to gather additional input and explore a variety of follow-up issues concerning a potential certification in more detail with professionals working in the public sector real estate field.
Developing recommendations concerning the establishment of the public sector real estate certification based on the results of the surveys and focus groups. These recommendations will include an evaluation of the effectiveness of existing designation and certification programs in creating a desirable and marketable credential for existing and potential public sector real estate workers. These recommendations will address issues such as:
Possible curriculum components.
Work experience requirements.
Process for administering the certification.
Transition process for implementing the certification.
The potential for attracting professionals who do not work under the Uniform Act to attend public sector real estate courses as a way to expand the market for academic institutions that offer degree programs in real estate services.
As part of this analysis, the team utilized the course inventory information gathered in the earlier phases of the project to help to determine the availability of existing courses which might be a part of or complimentary with the proposed certification and to assess the extent to which organizations and institutions will need to establish new courses in order to support the full implementation of a proposed certification program.
Defining a proposed implementation strategy and timeframe for moving forward with the proposed certification program.
The results of this research study will include action plans covering the development needs for education/training courses and for a certification program. These plans will be designed to achieve the objective of increased workforce capacity for the public sector real estate community.
The remaining sections of this report provide a summary of the findings and recommendations of this research project as follows:
Section II. Project Approach and Methodology. This section provides an overview of the project approach and methodology including the survey of licensing agencies, survey of institutions and courses, detailed interviews of Federal Agency staff, conduct of a web-based survey and follow-up focus groups.
Section III. Summary of Key Findings. This section summarizes the key findings from the research study. Areas to be addressed include the market value of a public sector real estate certification, components of a potential certification, the availability of courses to meet the requirements of a potential certification, requirements for and perceptions about public sector real estate courses, and several administrative and implementation issues which would affect the establishment of a certification program.
Section IV. Recommended Next Steps. Based on the strong acceptance within the public sector real estate community for the concept of a public sector real estate professional certification, this section outlines a series of recommended next steps designed to continue to advance the definition of and ultimate implementation of a public sector real estate certification program.