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Real Estate Industry Strives to Attract Young Talent via Competitions, University Partnerships

Jobs in property and building management are poised to grow by 8.0 percent by 2024, according to the most recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

A career in commercial real estate offers the freedom and flexibility that may be appealing to the latest generation of workers, but the industry has more work to do in attracting young talent, sources say. This is becoming more crucial as the average age of industry professionals is getting older.

The average age of property managers today is 50+, according to data from the Institute of Real Estate Management (IREM), and for all of real estate professions, the average age is 40-41. That could be changing.

“Incoming people are definitely younger, but it takes time to bring the averages down,” says Nancy J. Kirk, IREM’s chief strategy officer for education, outreach and advocacy. Kirk notes that many facets of real estate jobs appeal to the Millennial generation, who comprise the next swell of employees. “It’s not a sit-in-the-office type job. There’s lots of opportunity to work in or out of the office, or remotely. And Millennials like to be making a difference.”

Property managers, for instance, are exposed to work that can be equal parts business savvy and altruism. “You’re touching people’s lives every day, and that is even more true for those working in affordable or seniors housing. For those managing large office and multifamily buildings, you’re basically in the position of operating a big business,” Kirk says.

There may also be more job opportunities in commercial real estate than in other sectors. Jobs in property and building management are poised to grow by 8.0 percent by 2024, according to the most recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The same 8.0 percent job growth is forecast for construction workers, building inspectors, appraisers and commercial loan officers. That’s higher than the forecasted 7.0 percent average growth for all occupations. For real estate brokers and agents, the outlook is less optimistic, with forecasted 3.0 percent employment growth, or 10,900 positions, across commercial and residential sectors between 2014 and 2024.

Property management and brokerage are the real estate sectors that colleges graduates gravitate to the most, according to Kirk. But college real estate professors she has spoken to have indicated that the commercial real estate industry is not popular with college students as a choice of profession. “College students who choose to pursue real estate usually do so because they grew up in a real estate family,” she says.

As it applies to property management, for example, Kirk says “most people stumble into this career. It is not done with intention.” Accordingly, educating students about the diversity of careers in real estate is key to recruiting young workers.

IREM has partnered with several universities to increase engagement in property management careers, including the University of Wisconsin-Stout, the University of Alaska-Anchorage, Drexel University, Ball State University, Brigham Young University and Virginia Polytechnic University. Job placement stands at 90-100 percent for property management programs at these institutions.

University competitions are another means by which the real estate industry is trying to engage new talent. They offer a way to build awareness amongst college students that careers in the sector are viable, according to Kirk.

For instance, consulting firm Altus Group has created the $50,000 Real Confidence University Challenge with NAREIT and NCREIF. The challenge is a year-long competition that asks students to create an investment portfolio answering this question: “How would you invest $1 billion in commercial real estate to gain the largest return?” This year, 38 teams representing over 200 students from the U.S., Canada and Europe are competing.

“Programs like ours are great in giving a real world-based perspective to their academic studies. Programs like the Real Confidence University Challenge or the Argus University case study challenge have and will continue to work with academics to provide additional insight into understanding real estate. Combining these programs with adjunct professional lectures and sharing opportunities after schooling continues to serve as [an] education and recruiting tool for the industry,” says Chuck DiRocco, director of research at Altus Group.

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