In response to the ongoing digital evolution on the modern jobsite, tech proficiency is fundamental for students pursuing a degree in construction. Skills that formerly differentiated job candidates are now baseline requirements to kickstart a career. That’s why educational institutions are working to get technology in the hands of the next generation and introducing students to a diverse and highly valued set of experiences.
To help bridge the gap from the classroom to the jobsite, Procore and Bluebeam have committed to an investment in academia, providing access to their respective technology and training resources to equip universities across the country with the tools they need to educate and inspire the future workforce.
Procore and Bluebeam recently joined forces to launch the Construction Educator Podcast. The series highlights the stories, initiatives and research that industry educators from around the country bring to the forefront of learning environments and the future of the industry.
Here are the key takeaways from the series:
Industry Experience Fuels Teaching Careers
When asked what inspires industry professionals to teach, a number of educators reflected on their experience working in construction prior to starting a career in education. The decision to teach was often made after realizing that one of the best parts of their jobs was educating and training others on the jobsite.
A deep appreciation for building and construction was also recognized as a source of inspiration for those who remembered entering the field at a young age. One professor spoke of his experience working as a carpenter when he was a teenager living in Chicago, IL. Although the work was challenging at times, he said he would always marvel at the fact that he had built something that did not exist before. The magnitude of that accomplishment stayed with him throughout his work on projects spanning the globe and in the classroom.
“With each one of these projects, I get the same sense of magic that I built that; I contributed to that,” said Greg Starzyk, Construction Law expert and Professor in the Department of Construction Management at California Polytechnic State University (“Cal Poly”).
Professor Starzyk and others explained how they apply the same enthusiasm that they had on the jobsite in the classroom. A passion for educating the future workforce continues to drive their careers and also acts as a recruiting tool to build interest in construction as a career.
Diverse Learning Techniques Drive Innovation and Creativity
Students are eager to learn and equip themselves with the tools needed to succeed in the industry. With that in mind, educational institutions are finding creative ways to introduce learning objectives with access to training, tools, and instruction resources designed to get students up to speed on the latest technology.
Dr. Patrick Suermann of Texas A&M University shared more about his efforts to introduce students to virtual learning environments through building information modeling (BIM) software. The University’s Department of Construction Science exposes students to a Computer Assisted Virtual Environment, also known as BIM CAVE, where students can explore 3D models and learn how to build in a diverse set of environments. Through an initiative called the Texas A&M Space Alliance, students also have the unique opportunity to build virtual models on the moon, creating structures that can withstand radiation.
Because there is no substitute for industry experience, a number of professors emphasized the power of providing their students with hands-on learning opportunities. For Auburn University, this means running some classes in a virtual reality environment, where students receive training and instruction as they visit the jobsite virtually. Brad Hyatt, Department Chair of Construction Management at Fresno State University went on to describe a tiny home competition that his students participated in to implement their learnings out in the field.
“I like these projects because they’re real. We can’t simulate the stress of actually needing to get something done by a deadline, especially when you have to deliver the project to someone,” explained Hyatt.
The Value of Strong Communication Skills
Construction technology education can enhance students’ digital literacy and can contribute to their future post graduation. But it takes more than access to technology to prepare the next generation of professionals for success. If one thing stood out as a recurring theme throughout the podcast, it was the need for students to develop strong communication and interpersonal skills.
Dr. David Gunderson and his research team of Washington State University surveyed hundreds of superintendents in the U.S. and found that these soft skills were crucial to success in the field. Professors, therefore, have created opportunities for students to collaborate more and build relationships with their classmates, in addition to mentors from the industry. It was reported that much of what drives the success of a project team is the individual’s ability to successfully navigate and respond to the many perspectives and personalities on the jobsite.
Students at Cal Poly, for example, form negotiation panels to examine cases on construction law in Professor Starzyk’s class. Professor Andrew Kline at Cal Poly established an industry advisory board panel for alumni working in the industry to provide mentorship and career development opportunities for students.
According to Dr. Casey Cline, Department Chair Construction Management at Boise State University, there’s no doubt that educators play an important role in equipping their students with the information and tools needed to operate effectively on the jobsite.
“It’s just amazing to see what a wealth of knowledge students bring to the companies they go into nowadays,” said Dr. Cline.
Preparing Future Industry Professionals for Success
Construction educators made it clear that technology is becoming an increasingly central aspect of their curriculum. Dr. Cline of Boise State University explained that although construction has historically been behind the curve in terms of adopting new approaches to the same work, technology has changed that standard.
“All of a sudden, technology came to construction and we started moving forward,” Dr. Cline pointed out.
Last year, Dr. Cline’s students partnered with a local high school to collaborate on a building project aimed at introducing technology to day-to-day operations while constructing a community center for their local neighborhood. The community project came less than a year before the school won this year’s Associated General Contractors (AGC) Outstanding Student Chapter Contest for Construction Management.
“As educators, we have to be able to relearn things so we can show students what they need to know about these trends and how they are going to affect them,” explained Starzyk.
To help support the transition from the classroom to the jobsite, construction technology companies like Procore and Bluebeam have stepped up to partner with educators and equip them with what they need to keep up with the latest trends. The classroom environment has facilitated partnerships that underpin the importance of working together to think critically and solve business problems.
“In the months and years ahead, it’s less about the technology and more about developing a deep understanding of how technology shapes the relationships we’ve formed with educational partners to teach students the technical and soft skills they need to reinvent construction,” says Miles Anderson, Procore’s Manager of Procore.org.
“These industry educators continue to lay the foundation for the future of a productive and skilled workforce. As we strive to connect these leaders and learning environments to technology, we recognize what incredible insight they impart to us as true industry partners and to the next generation,” cites Bluebeam’s Senior Community Development Manager, Kellie Ward.
The following educators were interviewed for the podcast:
- Greg Starzyk (Construction Law expert and Professor in the Department of Construction Management, California Polytechnic State University)
- Dr. Patrick Suermann (Department Chair of Construction Science, Texas A&M University)
- Dr. Casey Cline (Department Chair of Construction Management, Boise State University)
- Brad Hyatt (Department Chair of Construction Management, Fresno State University)
- Dr. Jim Sullivan (Director of the Undergraduate Construction Management Program, University of Florida)
- Jeff Kim (Assistant Professor of Building Construction, Auburn University)
- Andrew Kline (Lecturer of Construction Management, California Polytechnic State University)
- Dr. Jeong Woo (Department Head & Professor of Construction Management, California Polytechnic State University)
- Dr. Jay Christofferson (Professor Program Coordinator of Construction and Facilities Management, Brigham Young University)
- Dr. David Gunderson (Associate Professor of Construction Management, Washington State University)
- Gareth Figgess (Professor of Construction Management, Sacramento State University)
Follow the links below for more information on academic support and partnerships from Procore and Bluebeam: