New Voices: REAP - Getting a Diverse Foot in the Door of Commercial Real Estate
By: Sarah A. Milans, marketing manager, NAIOP
Strengthening diversity within commercial real estate is the mission of REAP – the Real Estate Associate Program, giving minority professionals the opportunity to showcase their abilities and leadership within the industry.
REAP’s program is unique and competitive, comprising an industrybased, market-driven plan that locates and trains minority professionals in the commercial real estate field. Participants of the REAP program are introduced to the industry, often from backgrounds unrelated to commercial real estate, through education classes, networking, sponsor relationships and on-the-job training with leading firms.
“My goal is to get as many qualified individuals into REAP as possible. The idea is inclusion not exclusion,” says Gregg McCort, executive director at REAP. “Quite simply, REAP opens doors. REAP students make superb networking contacts through the program that they wouldn’t have been able to make otherwise. Indisputably, REAP gets minorities into the career process quicker because students have the knowledge and contacts to get noticed by the people who make decisions.”
REAP was launched in Washington, D.C., in 1997, and other large metropolitan cities quickly followed. REAP programs are currently offered in D.C., Atlanta, New York City and Chicago. Before REAP began, minorities in commercial real estate constituted less than one percent at management levels. According to Gregg McCort, REAP has helped boost minority employment in the industry by 10 percent simply by drawing attention to a vast talent pool that was always available, but previously unacknowledged.
McCort hopes to bring the REAP success to additional cities like Miami, Los Angeles and Dallas in the future, but hasn’t established firm plans to do so just yet. However, plans are in motion to shake up the current curriculum and run more programs in more markets during the course of 2010. There is also a shift to focus more on educational development with multi-networking opportunities so that students can learn and network simultaneously.
The New York City program began in February, and rather than a 26-week, one class per week commitment, students participate in two classes per week during 13 weeks. McCort feels this change is more convenient for students’ overall schedule and allows REAP to achieve its goal of offering more programs in a calendar year.
“REAP is a talent resource,” professes McCort. “Although the response rate has fluctuated recently due to the economy, minorities who are participating now are looking down the road for long-term career growth. These students know that commercial real estate is not going away — they want to enhance their careers and REAP is the ideal platform for them to do so.” To learn more about REAP’s education programs, networking opportunities and commitment to bringing diversity to the commercial real estate industry, visit http://projectreap.org.
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