Innovative education offered in Construction Management boot camps

Construction management education is, by its nature, deeply connected to the construction industry. However, due to rapidly changing technology and its associated costs, it is a challenge for programs to stay “ahead of the curve” in a traditional model of higher education. As a result, CM programs’ curriculum tend to focus on building strong construction management foundations. This challenge has created an opportunity to introduce an educational model that, while continuing to offer this foundation, better meets the needs of a changing marketplace. With its strong connection to industry, the CSU Department of Construction Management is leading the way in developing new approaches to construction management in higher education.

Novel teaching methods
A construction management student makes a 3-D building model using specialized software

One of the innovative teaching approaches the CM program has utilized over the last several years is boot camps. The boot camp format is an intensive four- to six- week learning session where students are immersed in the latest industry technologies and methods. The format allows great flexibility in terms of topics covered and course material used, and makes them an important supplement to existing coursework. The group study courses are taught by industry members and focus on identifying and understanding current practices and applications used by industry. Topics covered have included estimating, scheduling, BIM, and change impact and construction claims management. Industry support and involvement as course instructors has included individuals from GE Johnson, Hensel Phelps, Mortenson, Trautman & Shreve, Trimble, and US Engineering.

The boot camp model has proven to be a win-win situation for industry and students. For industry, it has changed the mindset from one of “donor” to one of “partner” and created a responsive venue in which to directly participate in student curriculum and training. For students, it is imperative that they be able to hit the ground running with current technologies when they graduate. In the boot camps they learn current practices directly from those in the field who do the work every day. This knowledge gives them a distinct edge up in their careers.

Getting a ‘leg up’

Mortenson’s Bluebeam eXtreme Award for Best Academic Partnership for its work with CSU

This innovative partnership with industry is a key aspect of the department’s vision of becoming the top construction management program in the nation. Additionally, it also addresses the department’s mission of advancing construction management education. In 2015, the Department of Construction Management received the Construction Education Challenge Award from the Associated General Contractors of Colorado in recognition of this innovative approach.

Chris Boal of Mortenson Construction has served as an industry instructor for several BIM boot camps over the last five years. “During the BIM boot camp, students get an introduction to advanced BIM/ VDC software,” said Boal. “With these tools the students are asked to produce and visualize work such as site utilization plans, concrete placement drawings, virtual mock-ups, 3D MEP/FP system coordination, and to understand how BIM/ VDC affect craft workers in the field. These skill sets are at the forefront of the construction industry today and will give them a leg up on the competition as they prepare to enter the workforce.” Mortenson recently received a Bluebeam eXtreme Award for ‘Best Academic Partnership’ with CSU for its work with the BIM boot camps.

Recently, Mortenson Construction and CSU’s Building Information Modeling boot camp were featured by Strxur, the editorial arm of Bluebeam, which is a technology widely used for design in the construction industry worldwide. Read the article.

Latest additions

This year, the department offered a boot camp on change impact and construction claims management. Jim Zack, a recognized expert in mitigation, analysis and resolution, and defense of construction disputes, taught the course. For Zach, the class is an opportunity to give back to the industry he has been involved with for the last 45 years. “I have presented classes like this in 28 countries, but never to a group of university students.”

As Mehmet Ozbek, faculty liaison for the camp, points out, “Even the best designed and well-planned project may encounter issues and events that lead to changes and claims. Construction managers must learn how to identify issues and bring them to management’s attention as early as possible attention.”

The Department of Construction Management is part of CSU’s College of Health and Human Sciences.

This article originally appeared in the Fall 2017 Construction Management newsletter.