MCC Architecture and Design remodels program around industry innovation
Curriculum focus makes program one-of-a-kind
Metropolitan Community College students studying architecture and architectural engineering design technology will benefit from enhanced career-readiness skills through the College’s investment in building information modeling (BIM) curriculum. Starting this fall quarter, in response to local workforce needs, courses for the program’s two associate degree offerings will include a more intensive study on the digital processes and technology used to create and manage building design and construction.
Supported in part by Nebraska American Rescue Plan Act funding, deeper integration of BIM into its curriculum makes the MCC Architectural Design Technology program a one-of-a-kind offering in the region. A major differentiator is its curriculum focus on students developing proficiency using Autodesk Revit (BIM software) — a workforce skillset that has become the industry standard for preconstruction industries, including architecture and architectural engineering (structural, mechanical, electrical and plumbing) fields. Because of recent industry-wide adoption of this technology, employers are challenged by a labor shortage of people who possess the knowledge and training to use it.
“We want to set our students up for success in the workplace, so we made this shift in our curriculum to align with the huge opportunities in the commercial and industrial sectors of architecture, engineering and construction industry, where the majority of new construction projects are concentrated,” said Jacquie Armstrong, MCC associate dean of Construction Education.
Under the new program structure, students who earn an associate degree in Architectural Design Technician (ARCTO) or Architectural Engineering Design Technician (ARCED), will have the option to enter the workforce to fill in-demand roles as BIM technicians or managers, capable of supporting the work of architects, engineers, manufacturers and contractors. Students can also continue their studies by transferring to another college to earn an accredited bachelor of architecture degree, which is required to become a licensed architect.
Along their path to an associate degree, MCC students will earn career certifications developed in partnership with local architecture and engineering industry leaders. Students who complete the architectural design technician program will earn a BIM Architectural (BIMAR) career certificate. Architectural engineering design students will graduate with either a BIM Electrical (BIMEL), BIM Mechanical (BIMME) or BIM Structural (BIMST) career certificate.
Armstrong said the multitude of BIM-specific certifications make the new MCC model one of the more unique ones in the nation, focused on the skills that create the greatest opportunities for employment in the field.
According to the Nebraska Department of Labor’s “2022 Labor and Hiring Needs Report,” 90.5% of respondents in the construction industry reported hiring difficulties — the highest percentage of any industry due to a shortage of applicants. Omaha-based architectural firm, HDR, one of the College’s numerous industry partners, has indicated a substantial need for BIM-trained employees.
The curriculum change, driven and designed by MCC Architectural Design Technology program instructor, Stephanie Ling, is informed by input from leading local industry professionals, some of whom have been contracted as MCC adjunct instructors and consultants for the program. One of the program’s greatest benefits to industry employers, Ling said, is its ability to retrain their incumbent workers to leverage BIM for projects.
“Growing our offerings in building information modeling is a recognition that this is the direction the industry has gone and that there’s a need for people with these developed, high-end skills,” Ling said. “When our students graduate, companies won’t have to exhaust valuable resources training them to develop these skills, which is the current industry practice.”
Ling said during their first year of study, students will explore the industry as a whole and the fundamentals of building design and engineering. Toward the end of that year, they will select which discipline they will concentrate on for their remaining credit hours and BIM training.
BIM skills are in demand in the workforce because of Revit’s capacity to accurately model all designed aspects of a building. This makes it possible to realize greater efficiency in design and construction through estimating materials and tasks, such as a building’s thermal and energy performance. Clash detection is another benefit to using BIM, Ling said, because it allows for corrections to be made prior to causing construction delays. Working within a collaborative 3D model, BIM creates cost efficiencies and enables easier coordination and knowledge transfer among project partners.
Additionally, the MCC program is working on a transfer articulation agreement with another higher education institution. After completing their ARCTO associate degree with MCC, students can then transfer to complete the last three years of a five-year accredited bachelor of architecture degree, which puts students on the path to licensure as architects. Typically, licensure through the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards often requires a master’s degree in architecture, and Ling said no colleges or universities in Nebraska currently offer a five-year architecture degree option.
Salaries for positions that require BIM skills at the associate degree level generally range from $54,000 to $69,000 annually, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
“We know from our industry partners that they need people with these new workplace skills, and we want to be the ones who provide this training,” Armstrong said.