Contributed by Cherise Lakeside
In my preparations for an educational conference, I got to thinking about how much the AEC industry has changed in the 30 years that I have been a part of it. As the voices in my head tend to wander, my thoughts strayed to the top five risks for design firms and how they have not changed since 1973.
What have I seen change?
I could go on for days about how the work that we do has so drastically changed but that is not what is important. The important question is whether we are changing with it. If the top five risks have not changed since 1973, then the answer is no.
Sure, maybe we are learning the software but are we changing the way we deliver, communicate and collaborate on our projects. Is that change happening fast enough?
The bottom line is that ‘I have always done it this way’ is rampant in AEC. That is why the top five risks have not changed in over 40 years. We can’t do this anymore!
The biggest issue that is not getting nearly enough attention is that the age and experience of our workforce is grossly imbalanced. The approximate 75 million Baby Boomers are working their way out. There are not enough of my Generation X (approximately 45 million of us) to fill their shoes. That means a huge chunk of the Millennials (about 75 million) have to advance a whole lot sooner than they ever have before.
The days of going to work in a design firm and not touching a contract or a specification for years are over. The days of not being involved in the management of the project and the intricacies of delivering it until you have put in ‘your time’ are also over. The Millennials are starting right out of the gate with no project delivery education and without the benefit of years of trial by fire education before they are handed these responsibilities.
My group (Generation X) are largely complacent (I’m too busy), not learning new technology fast enough (yes, I had to show someone how to scan something the other day) and are not spending enough time and effort getting our young professionals up to speed faster. Young does not equal stupid. Just because we have traditionally not given them these responsibilities for many years does not mean they can’t handle it. It just means we have never done it.
The bottom line is that they have to step up and they will. If we don’t keep up with our changing industry, there are plenty of them to take our jobs as we become obsolete. If we take the time to learn and teach in partnership with them (yes, they have plenty to teach us), we will reap the benefits of young, innovative coworkers with which to work side by side.
The times of waiting for someone else to fix and change things are over. The time for education, true collaboration/communication among disciplines and bringing our young professionals into the fold as equal professionals are RIGHT NOW.
The Construction Specifications Institute (CSI) is a great place to start. All disciplines are equal members and every education event has unparalleled depth and richness with all members of the project team in the room sharing information. I joined CSI 5 years ago and only wish I had the foresight to do so 30 years ago. The quality of my work and my knowledge has increased tenfold.
In my perfect world, this would be required education before you could even graduate from any AEC program or earn your degree and/or licensing but I don’t yet rule the world.
There is NO SUCH THING as too early or too late to get this education. The young professionals I work with know that. They are doing a better job because of it. They are helping and teaching their older, more experienced peers know that as well. I earned my CDT at 46 years old after years in the business. Did I learn something? That would be an understatement.
A beautiful design only comes to realization if you know how to deliver it. Whether you are 24 or 64 years old, you should still be learning every single day. If you are not, you might as well hang it up now because the change is happening too fast to sit on our laurels any longer.
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