Education in real estate matters in Asia - notably in India and China - has not kept pace with demand for experienced personnel. APREA has launched a new project to address the issue. Peter Mitchell reports

A major new initiative was launched in February 2008 by the Asian Public Real Estate Association (APREA). Called the APREA Institute, it is the education and training arm of APREA and it was formed in response to market demand in Asia for practical and applied training for real estate professionals.
Throughout the Asia Pacific region (and possibly globally) there seems to be a shortage of experienced and skilled property professionals. A cause of this in Asia is undoubtedly the rapid growth in the public real estate markets that has occurred this decade. In the REIT space, since the launch of the first J-REIT in July 2001 the market capitalisation of Asian REITs (excluding Australia) has grown to over US$80bn (€51bn) and the number of REITs now exceeds 100.
Despite the current economic uncertainty and market volatility, the long-term growth and popularity of REITs in Asia is assured, and so the demand for skilled personnel will commensurately increase. Among the mature Asian REIT markets, in Singapore there are many proposed IPOs waiting for conditions to improve before proceeding. These are of many asset types - Indian, Chinese, local and others.
While, through Singapore in particular, the mature REIT markets will continue to grow in the long term and continue to put pressure on the labour supply, there are also developments in the emerging markets. India has already prepared draft REIT regulations and China is looking at developing a REIT pilot programme in 2009. One of the major concerns, quite rightly, in both countries is the availability of skilled and experienced management to support the growth of REIT markets.
As a result of discussions with a number of real estate companies in Singapore and Hong Kong last year, we developed an appreciation of the kind of education and training they would like to see their staff undergo and particular areas where it was felt there should be emphasis. One need was for a general training programme to cover the gamut of real estate finance. However, the need for intensive, subject-specific workshops and internal training was also emphasised.
The outcome of the feedback from these sessions, and supported by continuing dialogue with many of our members, including some of our academic members, was the formation of the APREA Institute.
The Institute is developing a comprehensive set of practical and applied programmes, the first of which is the Certificate of Real Estate Investment Finance, (CREIF) which is currently running in Singapore and Hong Kong. This is a unique programme concept in Asia.
The CREIF is organised around four subjects: Real Estate Investment Market, Applied Valuation, Real Estate Finance and Investment, and Legal and Regulatory Considerations. Graduates of the programme receive a certificate awarded by APREA.
It is intended to give participants a solid introduction to the historical background and product development of the real estate capital markets and its practical applications. It studies the development, valuation, financing, issuing of securities in, and monitoring of performance of, real estate locally and internationally.
The programme combines distance learning and one case-study-based workshop per subject held over a weekend. It is targeted at the mid-management level and so has been structured to ensure it doesn't intrude on professional time. The course notes are prepared and the workshops are led by a team of experienced practitioners. Workshop leaders to date include senior management from banks, REITs and institutional investors.
Other programmes in development include two-day intensive short course training workshops to be rolled out in Singapore and Hong Kong, and other countries thereafter, later in 2008. These will include workshops on asset management, fund management and portfolio management.
The focus of the Institute is to provide the foundation for raising the standards in the real estate industry through a series of unique industry developed and delivered programmes. As the leading professional body representative of participants in publicly traded real estate throughout Asia, APREA is at the forefront of industry developments and is able to draw on the most qualified practitioners and expertise from all sectors and across the region.
The APREA Institute also works collaboratively with its member universities in the design and delivery of local legal and regulatory content for its education programmes.
Other activities that our members have asked us to consider include seminars, in-house training, a special CEO forum, a risk management breakfast series, a government speakers forum, a young real estate professionals forum and an industry leaders series.
Peter Mitchell is CEO of the Asian Public Real Estate Association