In my capacity as the librarian for the John H. Hampshire Memorial Library, I receive all of the magazines that come to the office. I try to stay abreast of the goings-on in the industry and look for hot topics to pass along. In the February 7, 2011, edition of Engineering News-Record I found an interesting subject in the viewpoint column authored by Matt Stevens, a management consultant. The article was entitled, "Filling a Gap in College Studies.” Stevens’s major point was what colleges are not teaching in the construction management programs. He starts the article off with two questions: "What is the most important class not taught in college? Or, to put it another way, what is the most important skill a construction professional should have? Answer: Managing construction’s craft labor. The labor component of any construction project is the largest opportunity to increase speed, lower cost and improve quality and safety.” The article is good read, so I encourage you to take a look at it.
What does this have to do with this have to do with technical issues that I am charged with resolving? First off, if we cannot relay a clear understanding of the codes and standards we work with to the craftsmen who do the work, they will never get the job right. In years past when I was working in the field, we always had a very experienced superintendent or foreman who had come up through the trades and could explain or solve a problem.
My recent experience in participating in AWCI’s Doing It Right education sessions has opened some new insights into the education and training of superintendents, foremen and project managers. At one seminar in Philadelphia last year, the attendees were asked how many came up through the trades. Out of the 30 attendees present, only three raised their hands. At a recent meeting of the AWCI Education Committee, I had the opportunity to spend some time with two of the committee members, and I learned from them that this lack of field experience is nothing new or extraordinary. In fact, it is par for the course.
Now do not misunderstand me. A college education and degree are requirements in today’s market to qualify for consideration to secure an entry level job in the majority of firms. Our discussion centered on how to best provide the training needed to enable the middle managers without field experience to successfully manager craft labor. During the Education Committee meeting, the committee agreed that this is an important subject of AWCI to get involved in, and we discussed how to provide opportunities during AWCI’s Convention and Academy to get this information to the people who need it.
In the pipeline are several ideas to provide this form of education. While not quite in the final stages, we are in fact looking at several offering. With the state of the economy as it is, we want to make sure that the opportunities will be taken advantage of by our members. I know from conversations with our members that educational opportunities are desperately needed, but often times the cost is prohibitive, especially if you have to include airfare and hotel costs. However, we also know that our members want to provide continuing education for their management personnel.
Now I have shared a problem that is need of a solution. With your input you can help provide the solution or solutions to the problems with delivering quality educational programs that are affordable and will allow you to send people to participate and come back with new skills and ideas to improve the bottom line for your company. In last month’s column I shared some of the methods we have available now to deliver educational programs to the membership. What works for you? AWCI’s Academy, educational programs at convention, standalone seminars, on-demand seminars or webinars? The education committee has selected programs for the upcoming fiscal year for convention, but there is the flexibility to provide these same programs in other formats. Please take a few minutes and let us know what works for you and your organization.
Donald E. Smith, CCS, is AWCI’s director of technical services. Send your questions to email@example.com, or call him directly at (703) 538.1611.