By Derek Smith
Special to Ontario Construction Report
As I write this article, I cannot help but to think it was a year ago I thought to myself, this will be a blip – a few months and we will return to the classroom across Ontario to resume in-class professional development just like I had been doing for the past eight years at local construction associations and in corporate boardrooms.
In Ontario, we are now in the middle of our new emergency order and stay-at home lockdown. For those of us that thought the same as I did back then, we are now realizing we need to change the way we think about many things, including skill development and education in the construction management space.
This is both good news and a bad news story, as many are these days. The bad news is the social interaction we all shared a love for in the classroom, the chance to banter, build off our colleagues and mentors’ energy in a three-dimensional space is now virtually gone. Arguably, gone for a long time to come.
Replaced by virtual learning, that in the hands of some astute facilitators and trainers, much of that energy can be recreated through interaction, use of on-line platform tools like break-out rooms and whiteboards to sketch out ideas and solutions, or simply standing up on screen so-as to move around and not be static sitting behind a desk. Or in the hands of some facilitators and trainers, none of these things are being done and learners are destined for what we in the skill development and education sector call “the push”.
Pushing information in one direction, with no feedback, little to no interaction among classmates, video turned off, and quite frankly an experience akin to listening to a podcast, or old e-learning platforms with canned presentations. The learning value, many education experts will tell you, is a fraction of what can be learned in a spirited engaging environment.
The good news is all is not lost; in-fact much is gained. On-line meeting platforms offer learners and facilitators and trainers alike the opportunity to re-imagine the learning experience. The ability to bring more ideas to the table and escape a regional vacuum created by the classroom.
It is incumbent however on the trainers and facilitators, and the institutions that are offering the training to work harmoniously to make that happen. What’s more, it is incumbent of all providers of education, whether it be a local construction association, Buildforce Canada, or other private training agency, to measure, test and re-test what is working and what is not.
We, as a collective, are not doing enough of this. Instead relying on each trainer to figure it out for themselves. The result, inconsistency, disengagement and possible disservice to the construction professionals we aim to assist.
We are not asking, how was the learning experience? Where do you want to go with your training longer-term? What do you want to achieve? Why did you cancel last-minute? or, did you enjoy this learning experience and would you do it again?
In other words, as a facilitator myself who is always reinforcing the need for construction teams to install continuous improvement actions in their workflow from project to project – as a collective of trainers and education providers, we are not practicing what we preach.
As one well known trainer recently commented to me; “you can have steak or you can have hot dogs, what are we doing in our training space and the learners we interface with to make sure it is steak on the menu and not hot dogs?”.
Recently, the Construction and Design Educators Council of Canada (CDECC) was formed, with a goal of bringing together industry trainers, facilitators, mentors, subject matter experts who from time to time offer workshops, and education providers whether local construction associations, trade associations, professional design associations, BuildForce Canada, or higher learning institutions.
Over time, CDECC will provide the environment for the conversation about standards, consistency and core construction management learning to be brought to the forefront. CDECC intends on working with Gold Seal, Construction Institutes, ConEd programs designed for various design professionals, so they talk to each other, not live in silos as they are today. The organization has a mandate to do good.
In the meantime, Constructionlab has just launched PATHFYNDR.ca, an on-line tool to assist in solving the “where do I want my learning journey to go and where do I find the right training for me?” question. Within 48 hours after filling out the on-line intake form, a user will receive a fully detailed customized report for a progressive learning pathway tailored just for them.
PATHFYNDR reports include links to registration portals at local construction associations, trade associations and even college CPD programs who offer workshops, courses and lectures that align with the learners needs.
Launched on April 12, PATHFYNDR has already engaged 12 construction professionals across Canada desiring to set their progressive path and engage in continuous learning. This is just one part of construction management professional development; re-imagined.
Derek Smith is president and lead facilitator at ConstructionLab.