Education and construction have always had a relationship. Education has always needed construction to build their facilities and construction has relied on education to provide skilled labor to the workforce.
Today, education and continuing education in the construction industry is more important than ever. As a construction professional there is always a need to continue to hone your skills and stay up to date with the ever-changing technology. Information management and modeling are changing the way that projects and programs are delivered. It is also changing the expectations and requirements of the clients seeking services from the construction industry.
Augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), building information modeling (BIM), drones, and the plethora of information for use in the age of big data require education in multiple disciplines. The construction industry is hiring not only architects, engineers, construction managers, and the skilled trade labor that is vital to building a successful project or program, but they are also seeking out software engineers, coders, programmers, and construction data scientists, to name a few.
The industry is now more than ever hiring a larger cross section of the workers that have education in these disciplines.
This is where half of the relationship lies. The industry needs educational facilities and institutions to produce the next generation of construction professionals. The industry also relies on these facilities and institutions to educate the existing and upcoming workforce in these disciplines and emerging technologies.
On the other half of the relationship, educational facilities and institutions must also change and grow to meet the needs of construction industry and all industries and professions for that matter. To be able to do this they rely on the construction industry to address this evolution and help them plan and execute. Whether it is renovating existing facilities, building new sophisticated facilities and teaching environments required to deliver current curriculum, or addressing parking and housing needs, education relies on construction to support them.
The planning and execution of these projects is aided by the skills and technical knowledge that schools are providing to the industry through the education of the future and current workforce. Being able to visualize the entire campus through drone mapping or viewing a new building using augmented or virtual reality before it is built, aids in the facilities abilities to plan.
In addition to new or renovated assets, educational facilities and institutions must also address the concerns of aging facilities, differed maintenance, and efficiency. Again, this is where the construction industry can do its part in the relationship. Using big data and technology, the construction industry can distill the information to help the education facilities and institutions better address efficiency and life cycle of their assets. Addressing failing or underperforming systems or attending to routine maintenance in a timely fashion leads to better efficiency.
The relationship between education and construction and has been strong in the past but in the digital age there are new opportunities to strengthen the bond and partnership that they share. As the construction industry continues to embrace the use of big data and new technologies, they increase the need for more technically trained people in fields that are not the traditional model of the past. With this increased need, educational facilities will need to increase the amount of people that have acquired these degrees and skill sets. In turn, education will have to respond to this need which will drive the need for additional construction to grow and upgrade their facilities.
I believe that it is safe to say that the relationship between education and construction is on solid ground.
Brian Oblon is associate vice president for Arcadis, Middletown, Conn.