5 Reasons to Invest in AECO Education and Outreach

April 25, 2018 Ian Warner

Students going to college to land a job in the construction industry usually study construction management, architecture, or design. Textbooks can offer the necessary education to a certain extent, but many construction skills require hands-on training to properly teach new processes and concepts.


Architecture programs provide various educational outlets and resources from a design perspective, but sometimes lack the funding or time needed to teach constructibility. This results in many students moving into a broader career path, with construction management becoming an increasingly popular option.

Many companies are recognizing an opportunity to invest their time, money, and resources where colleges are falling short. Curriculums and textbooks are often outdated by the time they land in the hands of students, so innovative construction firms and tech companies are swooping in to offer cutting-edge training.


If you’re thinking about doing the same, here are five major reasons to invest in the education of construction management and architecture students.


1. Eliminate Construction Worker Stereotypes

Why aren’t more students interested in construction? Perhaps one reason is because of the stigma attached to construction workers. It’s important for professionals to ask whether they have painted an exciting picture of the industry. Chances are, we could do a better job. We still have stereotypes of the older male construction worker, worn down, tired, and reluctant to adopt new technologies. But the industry is changing. Workers of all ages and genders are opening up to new construction technology and adopting BIM as a best practice—  helping eliminate stereotypes associated with the  construction industry. The only way to show this change is to lead by example.


2. An Investment In Students Is an Investment In Your Business

We know that getting students interested in construction is a challenge. However, many businesses are finding that offering free software licenses is one way to drive interest. Younger generations have grown up around cutting-edge technology, so showing them the new tools that are changing the industry can make it exciting — and they get to ditch the textbook. By providing the hardware and software that they’ll be using in their career, you’re even jumpstarting the training of your future employees.

During Trimble tech training at UMASS, students learned how to 3D scan buildings and environments.

According to a McKinsey article on industry education, a study showed that only 40 percent of US employers believed their new employees had the skills they needed to succeed. This is making companies invest more seriously in training. But, by investing earlier (such as, by visiting schools and offering free licenses), you’re increasing the chance that future employees will already have the basic training and understanding of available technologies they need to be successful and more efficient.


3. Refresh Outdated Curriculums

By the time textbooks are published, they’re almost always outdated. This means that when students receive the books they need for the semester, they could be learning old processes and techniques. This will be even more of a challenge once they’re in the office or the field, doing the work their education hopefully prepared them for. Many universities, colleges, trade schools, and unions cannot afford to keep up with changing technologies, so they look to industry partners to help showcase and train the latest and greatest solutions.

While some companies are finding it beneficial to visit classrooms or provide hands-on training for students as part of their curriculum, other companies are taking it one step further and helping build the curriculums to make them more scalable. Either way, by the time students graduate, they’ll remember your visit and be one of the first to apply at your company.


4. Schools Can Receive Grants and Alternative Funding

Colleges are full of historical buildings— and they’re constantly under construction. This is prime territory for students to learn about things like 3D laser scanning, point cloud modeling, robotic total station layout, and the corresponding hardware and software for these technologies. Construction management students, in particular, often work on real-life projects, like renovations for old classroom or industrial buildings.

One benefit of doing this is that the final projects and presentations can be reused as grant proposals and/or fundraising opportunities, helping the project become a reality while giving students a better understanding of the processes and technologies available to assist.


5. Free Workforce For Cities, Municipalities, and Other Organizations

Cities and municipalities can benefit from investing in architectural, engineering and construction management students as well. Many city projects can be assisted by colleges and used as a way to teach AEC&O processes. Upper-level college classes can accept a city project and see it throughout the semester from conception to completion.

The tradeoff is that cities get a free workforce, and students get real construction experience to put on a job application later down the road. One recent example occurred with Cal Poly and the city of Sacramento. Caly Poly is a nationally-ranked public university that prides itself on ‘Learning by Doing’ - a powerful combination of academic expertise and hands-on experience. Their classes are usually small, and students are challenged to apply what they learn into practice in a real-world setting.


In a recent project, Trimble and BuildingPoint Pacific helped perform laser scans of the K-Street pedestrian tunnel leading to old-town Sacramento from the convention center.

Students were exposed to laser scanning technology and software to help them model the existing structures, so the city of Sacramento could look at various options for updates, lighting analysis, and study if alternative transportation could be routed through the tunnel under I-5. There was an immense amount of collaboration between industry, government, and universities— which benefited all parties involved.


Making a Case for Investing In Construction Management Students

Students in Colorado State University's Construction Management course worked with Trimble and Saunders Construction to provide a 3D laser scan of an existing Industrial Science Lab. Their aim was to complete their final Procurement and Preconstruction assignment, present the project to their class, facility management, and to the state in hopes of landing a grant to complete their proposed renovation.

During the semester, the students learned scan-to-BIM through hands-on training by the company and industry volunteers.


To learn more about scan-to-BIM best practices, take a look at this guide.


Students were given the tools they needed in order to finalize their presentation for class and to earn a grant that would help pay for part of their proposed project.


Here are a few slides from the students’ presentation.

They scanned existing conditions of the exterior and interior of the building…


‘Stitched’ the point cloud together to form the model…


Presented their conceptual design…


And finally, presented their new, proposed design…


They even included an analysis meeting applicable codes and standards, a scope of work with an estimate and bid package, a project timeline, and a class relocation chart which showed where students could work during construction. By using real-world work situations, the students at CSU are primed and ready for a job in the office or the field. The grant has already been approved to help renovate the exterior of the building, but their work isn’t over yet. CSU will begin using their efforts for fundraising and finalizing plans for the new interior spaces.


When it comes to educating future generations, a small investment goes a long way. Find volunteers at your company who are passionate about what they do and are willing to dedicate their time to share with a younger generation. In a few years, your investment could pay off tenfold.

Connect with Ian on LinkedIn.



About the Author

Ian Warner

Ian Warner is a construction technology advocate who has worked with Architects, Engineers, Contractors, Owners, and Educational Institutions across the world to help improve the design-build-operate lifecycle. As Product Manager for Trimble’s Field Technologies Group, his hands-on implementation of emerging technologies including mixed reality, robotic total stations, laser scanning, accurate BIM, and many others, has shown thousands of industry professionals how these solutions help improve the entire building process.

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