Generally you have one intensive day to come up with your solution for meeting the brief – and to present a report. Then this will be picked apart by industry experts and you have to defend your ideas and try to win the competition. It’s pretty much like an accelerated version of a real world procurement process.
I’ve learned so much from the two competitions. My first, and possibly most important, observation is that you can achieve way more than you would think possible when everyone comes together and pitches in. BAM uses collaborative working with clients and subcontractors on real projects, and the value of such thinking was crystal clear when trying to react to new data a few hours before a deadline in the student events.
Secondly, I learned that although construction is a global industry, and involves certain commonly acknowledged physics, it is also carried out very differently in various parts of the world. The Americans seem to get involved much earlier in the design and get closer to their clients. They also give people broader roles and split the tasks up less. Plus they are great with technology – and of course they use words like schedule instead of programme.
I learned a lot from going over there and being introduced to their ways of working, and hopefully they learned from us as well. BAM Midlands project manager Carl Ward and managing surveyor Alistair Pinches gave a presentation in Birmingham before the Dublin contest – even I was learning things about the UK tender process.
On top of all the excellent benefits in terms of construction, there was a cultural side to the exchange. We went to the Deep South and saw the sheer scale of their campuses and the pride the students have in their universities. On their part, the Americans could not believe how sociable and friendly the atmosphere was in Dublin.
I hope to go back to Texas next February and hope that more construction companies in the UK can recognise the benefits of investing time and money in these student competitions. After all, it’s a great way for industry professionals of the future to develop their skills.