The following is a letter recently sent to a college construction program. I was asked about the current curriculum and what suggestions I might make to improve upon it. The Dean was soliciting suggestions from all industry professionals.
To ward off any wrong conclusions, the university is not my alma mater, The University of Louisiana at
I have read the syllabus and it is thoughtfully put together. As you may know, my experience is not in the education environment. However that said, I do know some of the wishes of construction contractors who will be the employers of a high percentage of your graduates.
1) The career paths of a specialty contractor (subcontractor) and a general contractor are equally valuable. A good specialty contractor will always have work and whose net profit before tax is double that of a CM or GC. Specialty contractors are looking for educated people. (Some Universities inadvertently promote the GC career). As an aside, you will see a shakeout in the GC segment of the market over the next few years. There are simply too many of them and many of them rely on subcontractors to build the work. The economy is cooling hence a shakeout.
2) Vocabulary – the proper and sometimes inelegant vocabulary (not the improper words). This improves communication and builds creditability. This also helps in managing labor. See below.
3) Managing labor – the ultimate value in the construction industry is the craft person (who can build with quality, speed, safety and cost). Without him / her, projects suffer. Your graduates will have a leg up if they are unafraid / capable in managing field labor. This appears to be missing from many college curriculums and a needed skill not possessed by most college graduates.
4) Actually build work. Yes, I know that you don’t run a Vo-Tech but, the ability to work with your hands and figure things out is a major plus to any person connected to the construction industry. Look above, the highest unit of value (or what people will pay the most for) is the craft hour. Something has to be done here with work-study or summer internships. This equates to higher contractor satisfaction with your graduates.
5) Construction Economics are unique in several ways
Variable Cost (vs. Fixed Cost)
Risk Reward (inverse to general business curve)
Financial Measurements used by Banks, Sureties etc concerning Contractors.
6) Best practices – this a major opportunity for your University. Young college people love best practices as they are cool and new. Other colleges seem to ignore this area.
However in a more practical sense, standardizing major processes helps the construction industry overall and makes individual contractors more profitable.
Dr. ______, I do this for a living. I hope that these thoughts may help in some way. As you might guess, they are constant themes that I hear from many of my clients.
Hope all continues to go very well.
P.S. The pre-publication copy of my new book has been mailed USPS and should arrive next week.
For more information about this and other subjects, purchase a copy of my McGraw-Hill book, Managing a Construction Firm on Just 24 Hours a Day. We offer a bundle with Excel templates that are featured in the book to help assist in making financial, estimating and project management decisions.
Matt Stevens is President of Stevens Construction Institute, Inc. A management consulting firm which works only with construction contractors. Learn more at www.stevensci.com