Arapahoe Community College (ACC) in Colorado is launching the first-ever apprenticeship for community association managers in August.
ACC is developing the five-semester program in partnership with the Community Association Institute – Rocky Mountain Chapter and 11 industry partners.
The job includes taking care of properties, collecting dues from residents, customer service and working with the homeowner association (HOA) board. Apprentices will work 32 to 40 a week while taking competency-based online and hybrid courses in such areas as marketing, customer service, management, business communications, legal issues in business, leadership and accounting, says Eric Dunker, ACC associate vice president and dean of business, technology and workforce partnerships.
A growing industry
Just about every multifamily community has an HOA, yet there is no traditional career path for managers, Dunker notes. The community association field has grown 700 percent since the 1970s, and is expected to grow 26 percent over the next five years.
Students who complete the program will earn 24 credits in business administration that can be applied toward an associate degree. They will also earn industry-recognized credentials as a certified manager of community associations and an association management specialist. Apprentices will earn $15 to $23 an hour.
ACC is working on getting the program registered with the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), Dunker says.
The college is using funds from Skill Advance Colorado, a program of the state’s community college system, and the DOL-funded Expanding Community College Apprenticeships initiative led by the American Association of Community Colleges to develop the program.
The Community Association Institute helped draft an introductory course on community management – and that course will cover issues related to keeping buildings and residents safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The reality is, even during the COVID pandemic, the need for HOAs is still there,” Dunker says.
The first cohort will have 15 apprentices. ACC is hosting virtual information sessions and phone interviews to select applicants.
The college planned an in-person interview expo in mid-July where about 100 applicants and the 11 employers can briefly connect in a setting Dunker likens to a speed-dating model. He hopes that event can still take place with social distancing.
Employers will select their top three to five apprenticeship candidates, and each applicant will pick their top three to five employers. Employers will make the final decision. ACC hopes apprentices will be hired by August 1.
A tough job
“We want to make sure it’s a good fit and to be very clear about what the job is all about,” Dunker says.
Community association managers deal with upset customers, work some nights and attend lots of meetings. They have to understand accounting, technology, contracts, sales and “selling the value of your association,” he says. “It’s not for everybody.”
Also working full time and going to school can be challenging, he says.
Currently, most community association managers have a bachelor’s degree, but Dunker says that’s not necessary. An entry-level job pays over $50,000 a year.
Industry partners will pay for half the education. Scholarships will cover the rest, so most students will complete the program with no debt, Dunker says.
If the program is successful, the Community Association Institute may expand it nationally. ACC also plans to create an apprenticeship in property management in partnership with the Apartment Association of Metro Denver.