BY PHIL THODEN, PRESIDENT & CEO, AUSTIN AGC
As a metropolitan chapter with a little over 270 company members, the Austin AGC has struggled over the years with how best to offer educational classes — such as Supervisory Training (STP), Project Manager Development (PMDP), BIM and Lean — to area contractors while not losing money in the process.
As any chapter knows, a good instructor is key, and they may not always be available in the local area or for free. If needing to pay an instructor, and perhaps travel expenses as well, the attendance requirement for the chapter to just break even may be eight to 10 students. Seems like a reasonable goal to meet but, waiting for registrations to come is like fishing and not knowing if there will be any bites. At the end of the day, many chapters put in a lot of time organizing and marketing a class with the hope of simply breaking even while providing this important member education service.
As part of its chapter strategic plan started in 2019, leadership decided to begin offering more general industry training starting in 2020 and identified the new AGC Project Manager Development Program 2.0 (PMDP) class as the place to start. Through a partnership with the Austin office of Procore, this in-person class was scheduled to begin in May and be taught by one of their education specialists here in town. We began marketing in February and had six students already signed up by mid-March when, of course, COVID-19 rocked the world. After assessing the situation, we agreed to postpone until later in the year. Then, the world suddenly discovered online meeting platforms (like Zoom or Microsoft Teams) and so offering training online became a much easier and widely accepted option as well.
With the online class available to anyone with a computer and internet connection, Austin AGC decided to open it up to other chapters in Texas. To make the offering even more attractive, it was agreed that a portion of any revenue earned for each student from their area who enrolled would be shared. Quickly, students from smaller towns across Texas signed up. Then, AGC chapters from across the country began asking if they, too, could offer the online class to their members. “Yes, of course!” was the reply.
When drawing up plans for the original in-person class, it was expected that 15 students would enroll. Some would likely come from other cities or states, incurring additional travel expenses along the way. With the new online format, the class has now sold out with 30 students from four states. Some of the students are from smaller towns and would not have otherwise had easy access to the training. They are also saving money by not having to physically travel to Austin. Meanwhile, the chapter is earning non-dues revenue from this class and is also able to share some of that revenue with five other AGC chapters. That’s a win/win for all involved!
Austin AGC is very excited to seize this new online training opportunity that brings both top quality professional education to the industry and financial strength to chapters. Also, this effort would not have been as successful without the support and collaboration with the chapter’s training partner, Procore.
Always remember: When one door closes, another opens.