BIM Voice: Connect Talk BIM Education – “Training That Pays”

BIM Voice - Kirstin Donoghue

BIMcrunch is delighted to welcome IT training company Connect to the site. Connect’s Autodesk Program Manager, EU, Kirstin Donoghue believes investing in Building Information Modelling training can help increase revenue.

Is BIM training worth the money? As the UK government’s BIM mandate deadlines draw ever closer, it’s a burning question. Is it easier and cheaper to encourage professionals to teach themselves and learn through trial and error? Or, if on the other hand, a business opts for an extensive training programme, will they see a return on their investment?

The problem arises mainly because those in the industry – and engineers in particular – tend to be brilliant at trying things out to see what happens and learning as they go along. It’s the ‘how does this work?’ mentality that makes them good at what they do. It’s tempting for employers to leave them to it.

In fact, this means that they are much more likely to be offered training in management skills, communications or other business topic than one that will upgrade their core capabilities. Perhaps they may badly need these business courses too, but not at the expense of technical training. DIY learning is very different from professional training which teaches best practice and how to use software in the most productive ways. The employer is missing the point if they want to get the most value from their investments in both technology and their personnel.

While understanding the software is a start, successful BIM requires so much more than just knowing where to click. BIM as a concept is what IT and business commentators like to call ‘disruptive’, ‘transformational’ or a ‘game-changing’. It cuts through the former linear nature of collaboration between professional disciplines, replacing it with a more organic workflow and, in this way, it disturbs traditional working patterns.

There are other reasons too why training is essential. The pace of change has been so rapid that many architectural and engineering practices are finding that there is a gap between what is being taught in higher education and what is required in the professional environment.

Also, the sector is highly fragmented with many small practices – in the UK, for example, three-quarters of architects’ practices have fewer than ten staff. As a result there is a huge gap between the early adopters of BIM – usually the large contractors and engineering firms who may already have been using these methods for almost a decade now – and the thousands of small practices who are behind the curve. Which means that these smaller firms will be on the wrong side of a widening chasm in the future, unless they become BIM ready.

But their main problem won’t necessarily be lack of skills – but more likely lack of experience. This is something recognised by BIM Academy, a joint venture between and Northumbria University and Ryder Architecture. The academy has recently introduced a three-day Virtual Project course. Senior Project Manager Justine Gray explains: “It has been designed to address the Catch 22 situation where a company needs experience of a BIM project to get the work, but they can’t get the experience until they’ve got the work. This course enables teams and organisations to develop knowledge before they secure a project or build BIM experience at the bid stage.”

As the more traditional practices are not yet used to working quite so closely with other professional disciplines, the course can also provide a ‘dry run’ for newly-formed teams to quickly assess their capability and responsibility and iron out the inevitable problems that arise when a new team comes together.

“We’ve had delegates who have come all the way from Australia. There’s also usually a mixture of disciplines – architects, mechanical, electrical and plumbing engineers, structural engineers, construction managers and facilities managers. On our most recent course, there was only one person that had used BIM before, so they are plunged into the deep end,” says Gray.

She reports that for some, it’s the multidisciplinary make-up of the team and collaborative approach that makes it so valuable. “Feedback tells us that the first lesson they learn is how important it is to have every project team member round the table together at the start of the project to influence the design and other project outcomes including asset data. The industry has a history of a very disjointed and linear approach to procuring a finished building which often leads to problems with quality, cost and performance.

Gray believes that this immersed and concentrated approach is a very cost-effective way of making the leap to BIM. “One attendee told us that their company had taken on a new member of staff specifically to look into moving the company to BIM. However, he reckoned he had moved forward further in the three days of the course than this dedicated staff member had done in the year he had been employed. If you compare the price of the course to a year’s salary for a well-qualified professional – you can easily see there are massive benefits.”

So it seems that the best return on investment comes when training involves using BIM in real-life situations. However, it is also important to ensure that any course taken is recognised and authorised and that certification of the skills learnt is part of the training. These days, certification provides a universal benchmark and helps prove the skills level of a team, providing validation of the right to be considered for projects and contracts. A professionally-trained team is bound to increase a company’s ability to win tenders.

It’s been said that there are two ways to waste a training budget; spending it on people who don’t need it and training people who don’t use it. So once the course has been completed and certificates awarded, managers must be persistent in following through, encouraging staff to implement what they have learnt.

It’s easy to assume that just because someone is using technology day-to-day, they know how to use it to its full advantage. The government-led BIM Task Group quotes 20 – 30% efficiencies when BIM is successfully implemented. But it also adds: “You cannot buy BIM out of a box… and you will need to invest more in doing than in buying.”

Investing in “doing” takes expert, professional training.

Learn more about Connect by visiting their official website.

Author Profile:

Kirstin has predominantly worked within the IT industry starting out as an Account Manager at Oracle. Leaving IT behind only briefly to successfully negotiate her career around the square mile in the City of London but 2003 saw her move back into IT with a focus on training and certification where she has worked to date.