Although Level 2 BIM is rightly today’s priority, says Jason Ruddle, managing director of Elecosoft (UK), the industry needs to get to grips with the training challenge presented by digital construction.
The BRE Academy’s recent skills gap survey reveals that BIM skills are lacking on an industry and organisation-wide level, with 67% of respondents saying that there should be more focus on promoting construction’s hi-tech and digital aspects.– Jason Ruddle, Elecosoft
That BIM promises much for a more joined-up collaborative future is indisputable. The benefits of a connected information flow, available to all stakeholders in each individual project, is the cornerstone of digital construction. The UK is heading towards the first deadline of Level 2 BIM and innovations in 4D and 5D BIM continue to advance forwards.
To meet these needs and get the best return from investment in BIM, organisations will need to accept that work processes need to evolve to support the information flow. This means embracing new technology and providing access to all for improvements on collaboration across all projects.
Inevitably, this means job roles will change and employees will have to learn new skill sets.
One approach would be to hire new staff who are BIM trained, but this could even be disruptive. Upskilling existing staff is far more valuable: they know how the business works and can work in BIM processes far more easily. Identifying the core skills necessary to support BIM in each business, such as project management or even basic BIM modelling, will help to close any knowledge gaps.
But the BRE Academy’s recent skills gap survey reveals that BIM skills are lacking on an industry and organisation-wide level, with 67% of respondents saying that there should be more focus on promoting construction’s hi-tech and digital aspects.
Professor David Greenwood, director of the BIM Academy, believes that a cultural shift is necessary to make BIM work, and needs to be combined with solid training. Taking the example of the project manager, he notes: “Up to now they have been managing physical descriptions of designs, but now they are being asked to manage digital information, which is a completely new skill set for which they need support.”
We can expect a raft of digitally-able citizens joining the construction workforce over the next few years, and they will have high expectations of how technology enables them to work “smarter” and will expect access to the appropriate software tools. If the people within the business aren’t sufficiently trained in BIM and the use of such software is not in place how will the new recruits develop their talents or be encouraged to stay?
Training is the domain of everyone
Great work is being done by universities and training institutions such as BIM Academy, and groups like BIM 2050, to inculcate BIM into the future of construction. With such a high demand for BIM skills, this might not be enough: the construction industry at large needs to support the proliferation of BIM training and education, and fund skills improvements and knowledge transfer.
As software providers we are working with the industry to help make access to 4D and 5D planning tools more affordable and easy to use. We are also actively providing training to meet the needs of expanding businesses that are investing in individuals who could be just beginning their career, through to already experienced planners.
Whilst the short-term priority is about grappling with BIM Level 2, there is a need to focus on what skills will be required in the future. Digital building techniques will only continue to progress further: it is incumbent on the entire construction industry to ensure all their employees become conversant in BIM and provide ongoing training to take in all new developments. The future of digital construction offers much and by embracing it now we will prepare the ground for a bright digital future.