The Next Generation of Obsolete Professionals

Posted by modlar in BIM on February 7th, 2013 16 Comments
grad students

This title may seem a little contradictory and frankly rather heavy for your mid-week reading but It’s a topic I’ve been needing to get off my chest.

Recently I’ve been thinking about the knowledge gap between tertiary study and the professional industries, and after completing my BAS last year I became even more aware of this ongoing problem (which has plagued many of my classmates and friends over the past months). The fact being BIM is a constantly growing and developing endless sphere of possibility, yet many of our current tertiary students aren’t being taught the basics behind modeling and 3d model generation;  in fact they’re being sent into your firms with no idea how to use Revit, ArchiCAD, Sketchup, Vectorworks, Rhino, Bentley, (insert your preferred modeling platform here). Furthermore I know personally, many (now professional) graduates that can produce a technically correct set of drawings on Adobe Illustrator, that many would find hard to distinguish from their Revit counterpart. As we all know this is not because they get pleasure from creating drawings to replicate the look that Revit produces- It’s because they are expected to use, yet never taught the aforementioned program.This is not really something to be proud of, but is understandable considering the pressure placed on Architectural students to produce excellence at any cost (sanity, sleep, visual manipulation). How many of us have managed to get through our degree without learning at least one 3d modeling program is beyond me? In fact I’m going to retract what I stated earlier when I mentioned Sketchup in the list of possible modeling programs- sketch up doesn’t count, most who graduate probably do know how to use Sketchup (well I hope for their sake).

The problem is Our Tertiary Institutions expect students to teach themselves. I hear many of you saying, “Well I had to, it’s just what happens”. That attitude annoys me. This mentality of ‘battling through’, I agree was fine for the Baby boomer generation; when modeling meant going down to the workshop to in fact make a physical model. This however is simply no longer the case. With the shift towards computer generated drawings and 3d modeling, potential employers are now using a selection of different modeling platforms depending on firm size, geographical location and in-house knowledge; graduates can no longer teach themselves the ropes- It’s near on impossible. Of course I’m not saying that traditional methods are obsolete, quite the opposite. I’m saying that traditional methods are still so prominent (and for good reason), that not enough attention is being given to new methods, which in combination with the traditional can balance and inform the future of the AEC industry.

My point being our students now need more help to succeed and become valuable members of the Architectural graduate community. So It’s time that our local Tertiary Institutions step up to the plate and take responsibility for equipping the future of our AEC industry with the skills they need to become valuable and valued industry members.

What does everyone else think of this? Is it just me that has found this a problem? Are some Students more educated in BIM than others or is this a Nation wide issue? I would love to hear from Architects, Designers and Engineers. I guess the next step is how we combat this problem. I feel as though there needs to be more communication and collaboration between Industry groups and tertiary institutions to form courses that will give students the best possible chance of employment, while at the same time saving their employer time and money in the potentially necessary T&D that would have followed. What do you think is needed in order to combat this issue?

  • becdecicco

    I still cannot fathom how the syllabus does not include more in the way of digital technologies. I am and was appalled by the fact a few of my lecturers were not engaging back then on the digital influence and it would not surprise me if they were still not. Such a shame. We need to get around this somehow and positively influence the industry down to the education sector or else when people like myself are managing organisations we wont have the staff with the skills to bring on board.

    • brylee.flutey

      Agreed. There needs to be more communication between industry and educators to design courses that benifit the future of the ACE industry as a whole. BIM simply cannot reach its expected potential without a skilled labour force pushing the limits of possibility.

  • Brian Lighthart

    Absolutely right, but it is not a nationwide problem. It is nearly a worldwide problem. And, if it is a problem in the U.K., where there is a conscious, unified effort to convert to BIM methods, imagine the situation elsewhere. A few institutions have opened BIM programs, at least at graduate levels. Some are standouts. But most state universities in the U.S. have barely started talking about it.
    The alarm bells have been going off here in the U.S. for at least 8 years, but institutional response is slow. No surprise there.
    Industry, the Government and Miliatary are actually ahead of most of academia on BIM training and implementation – not to mention R&D.
    Entrenched attitudes and confusion account for most of the problem.
    It will take real leadership at high administrative levels at universities and colleges, and funding from industry to effect any real change in the status quo.

    • brylee.flutey

      From the feedback I have received both here and over social medias I would say it appears to be a global issue- which is somewhat scary. I agree that it has a lot to do with ‘entrenched attitudes’ which is a shame as the AEC industry is about pushing the boundaries and forward momentum to design brilliant structures. It certainly will take a huge shake up of the current system to see any significant changes, I wonder how many more years this will take- if only more institutions where taking a leaf from the ‘standouts’ you mentioned…

  • Karoly

    All well said, but sorry to disapoint: such is life. New graduates come out of universities from all over the globe not only lacking knowledge of BIM, but having little or no clue at all about how buildings work, how they go together, what are the current regulations and rules etc. This however is no news at all. Today’s unis took the view that there is no chance to keep up with the pace of changes. They are quite happy if the may confidently claim they showed you the swimming pool and at graduation you either jump yourself or they push you in, but it is you who has to figure out how to swim… If you are fortunate enough to recognise during your studies what is it that you are lacking most to have a better chance in the big pool of fresh grads you should teach yourself or find a course that suits. If it is BIM, that’s easy to help with. You simply start doing your uni projects in your choice of BIM software. You may not get the best marks at the beginning, but who cares? When you go to a job interview, what do you think matters more, your marks or that you claim to be a competent user of a tool used at the firm? Just to clear the picture: There is a simple reason behind why architectural courses don’t include much about BIM practical knowledge. A university simply can’t take sides. They can’t say students must submit in either softvare package…. This is actually where IFC format should be taken really seriously! There are already countries where you have to submit the planning approval package to the local authorities in IFC format as 3D model. This approach would help at universities too! Yet first step first: students first should learn how to draw by hand… (a drawing is a special way of story telling writen in a unique universal language. You have to learn the rules and symbols of the language before you can tell your story.)

    • brylee.flutey

      I agree that tertiary studies cannot entirely prepare you for everything professional practice has ready and waiting to hurl at you. And as you mentioned (and I agree), many don’t know how buildings work, or the current rules and regulations. With that being said, at least our tertiary institutions include these as part of their core syllabus. We have all taken ‘Structures’ and ‘Construction’, some listened, some didn’t, point being-the topics were covered. They may not have been in depth enough to prepare you for professional practice, but they featured. BIM doesn’t. Many of our education providers aren’t including BIM education within their syllabus- and that should concern all of us. Furthermore, (and personally what I think to be worse) is the fact that many educators expect students to submit designs in BIM programs without setting them up with the necessary skills to do so. This ‘sink or swim’ approach as I mentioned previously just shouldn’t cut it. It’s a legacy approach that needs a reality check. The reality being that BIM is our future and perhaps educators should start acting like it? Why shouldn’t there be formal BIM education when it is expected of grads to work across multiple platforms in the workplace? I don’t think they should have to teach themselves ‘how to swim’. I do however agree that drawing is still a crucial skill for Architectural communication, and like you said it’s ability to enrich and inform can go beyond that of many computer programs. My point is these two forms of communication currently fail to harmonize within most education facilities. And with this being the case, how can we expect to truly push the already know, yet untaped potential BIM represents?

  • dayle_design

    Having recently graduated from Uni and being on the education committee at my uni, I can tell you that Universities (the red bricks at least) will not allow the education staff to actively teach any specific software to a student as part of the curriculum. My academic staff tried and failed on many occasions, and are still trying to push it through but meet a lot of barriers every time. The reason is as mentioned before, universities do not want to side with any singular software name or package as these will come and go over the years. The theory of BIM can be approached and studied, but the actual sitting down with students and showing them a software package isn’t.

    With regards to construction and structure understanding of students, I would agree that some students understand and learn it better than others (just as others are better at spacial hierarchies or communication) and at best will enter the industry with a basic understanding.

  • MikeHudsonArchi

    I agree with the comments regarding the red brick schools. I teach at some of the newer schools and their adoption of some, if not all of the new software packages has been quite successful. It is a shame that some of the big name employers can’t see past the location of the degrees becuase these students would be a real asset.

  • james brennan

    Here the deal architectural professors are lazy and anything that smacks of newness ie technology turns them off because then they would have to learn something new and the student in turn would become the instructor “architectural professors hate that”.
    Whether you like it or not technology is fast becoming architecture and the students in school need to be tuned to that process. (its 70% of the business)look at and other type of academic design environment and see how they have evolved.
    There are lots of reasons why our profession is dying but one of them could be attributed to schools ignoring the need for a more rigorous understand of GC/ADAPTIVE modeling. (akin to accounts ignoring excel) There will be a time and I certainly see it every day where my clients “ luckily” want beautiful things and they know that these beautiful things will be expensive to build but they still want to cut my cost to produce it. (see CM/AS PROJECT LEADERS)
    Inevitably they will vend these mechanical processes to external vendors at the detriment to the architect.
    Another thing we need to understand is that the designing of objects and the production of documentation are one and the same. Unless of course you went to school In the 80’s and believe that being a design is more important than producing a great set of documents. OR employing the rest of the profession in the very amiable pursuit of elegance.

  • james brennan

    if you cant draw and most architect cant and you cant use the technology what do you do “again”

  • Jay B Zallan

    Great article, really got me (and others) thinking.
    I wrote a reply but posted it on my blog, as I used a dirty word and didn’t want to be flagged herein 😉

    • brylee_flutey

      Very considerate Jay :) Thanks for the great feedback, really glad you (and others) enjoyed it. I love what you said about BIM as a process rather than technology or software based (very true). I guess it’s how we translate this way of thinking into education… seems like a large ask in the current climate.

  • Eric

    I don’t believe the finger should only point to schools. The industry MUST take responsibility for its own actions and *train its current staff on a regular basis*. No computer tool is the same as a pencil – you can not simply go and purchase a new, sharp one when you’re done with the previous version. I’m certain many in the industry will holler and moan about billable hours, but if you are unwilling to reinvest in your own intellectual capital how can you expect to prosper? Constant training – not just once and done needs to become the new industry standard.

  • GaryL

    Good article and food for thought.
    As an employee of Graphisoft (ArchiCAD authors), in a previous life, part of my role was to support schools of Architecture in implementing appropriate solutions, in the UK and Ireland. The take up and integration varied wildly from institution to institution, some doing an excellent job, many nothing. I was on one occasion invited to present to the lecturers of one institute by its Architecture students (I will not name and shame) the presentation was followed by a debate in which the students challenged the lecturers as to why they were not using the software as part of the process, particularly as it was being offered to them at no cost.
    Not all Universities and not all lecturers are created equal.

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