Why do we need BIM Education and Training Courses?
I was recently asked by a customer “how has training changed and what are the new techniques?” This was actually a very thought provoking question because there have been some very significant changes in my experience over the last five years.
No one can ignore Building Information Modelling (BIM) these days and the Construction sectors increasing transition to digital technologies, and supporting this change is the need for education. Education is all about gaining theoretical knowledge and understanding, whilst training refers to an act of developing specific skills in a person.
The move from traditional drawing processes to CAD was supported entirely by training. I remember very well that one day I was using drawing boards, pencils and ink and the next a monitor screen, tablet and a puck with training supporting the process. However, the move to BIM is very different. It is fundamentally changing the way we collect, generate and maintain information and data, with many project decisions being made based on outputs from the BIM process. BIM also promotes increased collaboration or co-operation, depending on your point of view, with many participants contributing to a Project Information Model (PIM), or at project hand-over an Asset Information Model (AIM). These changes to standards, methods and processes need to be understood and this is why in 2013 Excitech developed its BIM Fundamentals training course. This course provides an educational day to allow all levels of a business to develop a 360 degree understanding of BIM including the reasons why BIM is being adopted, the UK Governments mandate, the standards, methods and procedures, new roles and responsibilities, contract frameworks and of course helping people get to grip with all the new acronyms, which can feel like learning a new language for many individuals. The intended objective from this BIM training course is to provide a good understanding of the subject, make BIM personally relevant to individual’s job roles, and align everyone so cohesive implementation strategies for BIM can be developed from an educated and informed position. When developing BIM and Digital Transformation strategies for organisations, whether these are employers or suppliers of services, I personally find the consultative process is a lot more interactive and efficient if education has been provided first because. As an example, I don’t have to stop to explain what a CDE, BEP or TIDP is during discussions.
Once a strategy has been developed, it will include how the agreed implementation will be supported and this typically will include task focused BIM training. For technical staff this may be using authoring systems such as Revit, for management staff this might by how to respond to Pre-Qualification Questionnaires or how to write a BIM Execution Plan without introducing contractual risk. Classroom based training has always been the traditional method for those needing to learn new software applications or workflows, and this still remains a popular method to develop new skills and understanding with an expert facilitator in the room. It is the follow-on support after the initial training is where I have observed the most significant change, and this can be best explained via Lloyds Registers BIM Level 2 Accreditation scheme.
During a GAP Analysis review, which is the first part of the BIM Level 2 Accreditation scheme, I have observed a significant change in the way organisations conduct performance reviews and provide direct support to staff. The traditional annual review may still be held but more and more companies are conducting monthly reviews, providing on-line HR portals for staff to access at any time, or run regular more casual “coffee and chat” training sessions. This provides regular support and feedback at the point of need and not many months later at an annual review.
When we consider the support needed relating to technologies and good working practices, keeping productivity levels high and not letting staff lose confidence, is often key when using new technologies or learning new functions and processes. This is where search engines such as Google, media platforms such as YouTube, or social media an individual would use to help if stuck or has forgotten a process. For me personally, when learning a new process in Excel typically YouTube has been my best resource, but when I wanted to learn a new workflow in 3DS Studio Max, often I would find key processes had been skipped or there was no instruction that a particular settings checkbox has to be ticked for it all to work, which was not only frustrating but also very time consuming.
The alternative approach is e-learning portals such as Pinnacle Series. Yes, it has lots of training content, videos, hints and tips etc, but it does so much more. Individual training plans can be configured and monitored, content can be customised to suit the organisation, skills tests can be configured, staff can learn at their own pace, and there is direct access to a technical expert to help within the system. I normally coin the phrases: your staff need a `bat phone’ or `they may need to phone a friend’, and this is exactly what Pinnacle Series provides if you’re stuck. Help is available straight away. My personal view is that if the trend for more remote working continues, organisations will need e-learning portals to not only provide support but also ensure consistency in delivery and therefore quality. Also, one of the most common risks I identify and discuss with customers when developing strategies is succession planning. Quite often the CAD or BIM Manager is the font of all knowledge, the Oracle for the business, but typically if they leave the business, or are not available, the knowledge and support to staff disappears at same time. Having a training portal like Pinnacle Series means the knowledge can be captured, stored and made available directly to staff when it is required, significantly de-risking business operations.
In summary, I don’t see classroom-based training either at a training centre or on-line disappearing when initially learning new skills, but the emergence of training portals that are available 24/7 with access to application experts, is starting to align with a HR trend to provide increased support and opportunities for staff to develop skills on demand. We all know that when an urgent project deadline is looming, it’s all hands-on deck, with no room for delay. That trusty BIM training course is always a good investment, but I firmly believe continuous support is priceless and should not be ignored.