Financial management course gives pros the tools they need

Dive Brief:

  • A new college-level course aims to help construction pros understand an area in which many have little training: financial management.
  • The free online course on the fundamentals of construction financial management is focused on the unique financial and accounting processes that keep construction businesses on track.
  • The program, launched June 15 by New Orleans-based provider of construction payment technologies Levelset, covers how to create and read financial statements, manage transactions and cash flow and track company performance with financial data.

Dive Insight:

The course aims to target “accidental” professionals, said Jonny Finity, senior content manager at Levelset.

Jonny Finity

Permission granted by Levelset

 

The term refers to people in the construction industry whose job includes financial and accounting tasks, but who do not possess formal training or education in those subjects. That’s a norm in the construction industry, especially for small businesses, said Finity.

About 83% of construction businesses in the U.S. have fewer than 10 employees, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Small construction companies frequently turn to family or friends to run the office, do bookkeeping and perform general accounting tasks, without particular concern for their level of financial education or training, said Finity. 

ZipRecruiter shows around 8,600 open jobs for construction office managers, and almost none require a bachelor’s degree in any field. About 58% of women in construction agreed with the statement “I studied or received training that prepared me for my current job,” according to a 2021 Levelset survey.

That sparked the idea to bring on Steven J. Peterson, licensed professional engineer and professor of construction management at Weber State University, to teach the financial management course for construction professionals. Most accounting books, for example, do not cover the unique aspects of accounting specifically for the construction industry, such as long term contracts, retention and progress payments, to name a few, said Peterson.

Steven J. Peterson

Permission granted by Levelset

 

Major takeaways from the course include how to understand a construction company’s financial statements, including the unique differences between what you would see in a traditional statement and in construction, said Peterson. That includes different terminology and categorizations, and being able to determine whether a client is really creditworthy. 

“I want to teach people to take a look at a construction statement, and be able to take those human characteristics into account, look at the financial ratios and be able to interpret the health of a company like a doctor would report tests and interpret your health,” said Peterson. “We’re gearing this towards the accidental professional because the entry barriers in the field have dropped significantly.”

About 200 students have signed up for the class already, said Finity. Students can complete the class at their own pace, with an average completion time of just three to five hours.

“We’re taking what has been used widely by universities to train the next generation of construction leaders,” said Peterson. “We’re taking about a quarter of that course, condensed it down from about four weeks to this three to five hour course, to develop, prepare and give people a introduction to that topic.”