Training the next generation of BIM experts to avoid a digital skills gap

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Digital skills gap

Emma Segelov, Head of Marketing at MK Electric, explains the importance of training and investing in young people to avoid the digital skills gap

Like many industries, the construction sector is facing a notable skills shortage. Following the latest survey from Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), 59 percent of construction workers felt there was a need for improved education pathways and training to help bridge the skills gap.

Incorporating BIM Level 2 into projects is a real and ongoing challenge for construction firms. Yes, the software includes some very real benefits, including clash detection and time savings on site, but making it work within your company on a day-to-day basis can seem daunting at first.

Adopting BIM

The good news is that BIM doesn’t have to be difficult to adopt. In fact, it can actually be an incredibly effective way of bringing young people into careers within the construction industry. Maintaining a well-stocked production line of new talent is never easy, but BIM gives aspiring construction professionals a rewarding, long-term career path which makes full use of the technological skills they have naturally developed throughout their lives.

This is, after all, the generation that grew up with the smartphone – the young adults who consider a CD ‘retro’. They’re taught to work on computers from the earliest stage of education, giving them the practical skills required to navigate packages such as Autodesk’s Revit.

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There is already a recognisable interest in careers in BIM, which has led to the introduction of BIM-specific degree programmes, teaching the very skills young people will need to forge a career as a BIM advocate. However, there is no reason why college leavers cannot undertake on-the-job training to help them reach the same levels of understanding, without the requirement to go to university.

And, by hiring and helping to train these staff up now, firms can benefit substantially over the years to come. BIM’s role in the construction industry is only set to rise, particularly as the levels of granularity required to satisfy its increasing complexities continue to grow.

As BIM becomes more widely used and understood, the amount of information available will mean a much greater level of detail can be achieved – eventually, it will include every single component of the building, down to chairs, desks and stationery cupboards. It will become truly fundamental to everyone from construction professionals and electricians, to architects and facilities managers.

However, the adoption of BIM can seem daunting for long-standing professionals, who may not have the time to sit down and pore over the rudiments of a brand new technology. While the information contained within BIM will ultimately help to make life easier for everyone working on a project, the initial time it takes to learn how to use the software packages necessary to implement BIM can feel overwhelming.

And, as BIM develops on to Level 3 and beyond, we can expect the complexity of data required within each individual model to increase. This will continue to turn BIM into a specialist area – requiring workers specifically trained in BIM to produce the models and data needed.

However, what is likely to emerge – assuming younger workers become firms’ BIM specialists – is a trend for two-way learning.

Established employees, while perhaps not as keyed into the nuances of the latest technology and data-driven computing, hold innumerable core skills stemming from valuable real-life experience, which is vital in allowing recent entrants to the industry to get to grips with day-to-day working life.

Younger workers, meanwhile, will be able to help these colleagues to work with BIM and make it an integral part of day-to-day business. This will ensure BIM filters up throughout the company – allowing your business to thrive as BIM inevitably becomes increasingly embedded in the UK construction industry. ■

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Emma Segelov

Head of Marketing

MK Electric

Tel: +44 (0)1268 563 000

www.mkelectric.co.uk

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