I ran across this blog posting with study tips for the LEED AP exam. The blogger reported a score of 197 out of 200. This is the highest score I have heard of on this exam, so I thought the readers of this blog would like to know how this person studied.

Be sure to check out my study tips at:

How I Passed the LEED AP V2.2 Exam

I received the following comment a few days ago from a civil engineering student who had a poor experience during a construction management summer internship. The post is written in a very upfront manner and highlights many of the pitfalls that all companies should look out for with internship programs (team turnover, not engaging the student, no responsibility for the student). Check out my previous posts entitled, “What are students looking for in a construction internship?” and “What are construction students looking for in a job?” for some on the intern ideas I have seen work.

The post follows:

“In what follows, I’m posting my advice (rather longish, sorry) for analytically inclined engineering students. By way of disclaimer, I speak only for myself as an intern at one of the largest general contractors, but I suspect my experience is rather representative of the field as a whole from the prospective of an ambitious engineering student.

Why would someone consider working in construction management? I was early in my civil engineering program interested in all forms of built environment. I accepted the internship offer thinking that to learn the ropes I have to get direct and unmediated exposure to the nitty-gritty of construction. I still believe the best way to test your interest is to dive head first and sweat it out. But for someone in my position, it’d be better to take some technical college classes in building construction, help his neighbor with the addition he’s planning, or better yet take a few years off from school and enroll in a union apprenticeship. If you fear you’ll get behind your peers, think about those in your cohort in school who’ll spend years volunteering for AmeriCorps or Peace Corps. There’s a management part to construction management, but there’s darn little construction, still less engineering involved.

In fact, the one lasting benefit of the internship for me — other than getting a reality check on what construction management is all about — was that the company encourages its office employees (project engineers, estimators, interns) to walk the job-site on a regular basis and not just on their own time. It’s a telling fact though that many of those I shared my trailer with would never even venture into the construction zone finding more comfort in hopping from one meeting to another and rehashing subcontracts. Ok… walk the site you may, but be content with being a sidewalk superintendent. In other words, don’t expect much if any mentorship from field staff. In all fairness, the senior project engineers and managers may be totally willing to give you tips. Unfortunately, they are generally the least informed about the nuts and bolts of the construction process. The surprising and unfortunate fact is that there seems to be a complete disconnect between the field staff (superintendents etc.) and the management ranks — the former have no incentive to mentor the latter who essentially serve as office factotums (”office managers”). Even monthly company training sessions on technical matters of construction (waterproofing etc.) are conducted by PEs and PMs who seem to just regurgitate something they merely learned by rote. Consequently, if you have any previous hands-on experience of the construction site, you’ll find the whole management enterprise sort of devoid of purpose other than making money by getting off the hook by any means necessary.

Working at the company was nothing less than indentured servitude. You’re given ample food, drink, a generous monetary compensation, a little office space. In return, you’ll give up all your waking hours and convert to cubicle dronehood. My impression of long-time career potential at the company is quite pessimistic. I found very little trust among employees. With the exception of a newly hired Project Engineer, I couldn’t get any other of my colleagues to talk to me candidly about their experience. Turnover is comparable to that at a fast-food chain. Among the people I worked with, one of my immediate superiors left during my summer stint, two others left soon after the end of my internship. It’s a far cry from working in tightly knit groups with like-minded engineers on gnarly problems that you’re used to as an engineering student. Incidentally, from my interaction with field employees (tradesmen, superintendents), they appeared quite pleased with their work and compensation as I most likely would’ve been in their position.

As an intern, you’d be a low man on the totem pole anywhere, nothing wrong about it. But there was something fundamentally amiss about my role at the company. I was looked down upon as a pesky nuisance by everyone — rightly so — from subcontractors whom my task was to effectively prevent from communicating directly with architects/engineers to my company’s own concrete workers who probably thought of me as an idle onlooker pestering them with the “not even wrong” sort of questions. The end result is that you will understand nothing about what went into the design and little about what went into its construction (other than learn about an occasional conflict that you happened to submit an RFI on).

I decided to post this as a warning to civil, structural, or mechanical engineering students who might unwittingly succumb to the illusion that there’s something “hands-on” about construction management. In all honesty, your position vis-a-vis construction will be that of an event planner’s assistant’s aide in relation to active participants at a wedding she’s helping to book. I’m aware that some construction management companies have a “field engineer” type of position leading to superintendent in the long run, but I’d be suspicious of any promise of a smooth and proven track. If however you take pride in your professional skillset and aren’t quick to give up your privilege to tinker and invent, you’ve better look elsewhere. Caveat emptor.”

Congratulations to the ACE Mentor Program in Frederick, MD for their win at the Second Annual National Design Competition! Refer to the link below for more details:

Architecture, Construction, and Engineering – ACE – Frederick Affiliate Wins National Design Competition

On a more personal note, I am extremely proud of the San Francisco Bay Area Affiliate who place second at this same competition — I am bit partial to this team because I served as a mentor to this group of impressive high school students.

ace_logo.jpgThe ACE Mentor newsletter for the San Francisco Affiliate has been published for the year. Check out the link below to get an update on the teams throughout the Bay Area:

ACE Mentor Program – San Francisco Bay Area – Newsletter 2007-2008

ascbanner_r1_c1.gif

The annual ASC student competition for Regions 6 & 7 took place this past week and you can found out how the schools performed at the ASC Regional Website at:

http://www.asc67.org/index.html

The event was held in Sparks, Nevada this year — check out the website above for more details.

As of November 26, 2007, this blog reached the first anniversary of its initial posting. I was surprised that this blog has been viewed over 25,000 times since its inception with the most popular postings on the topics of construction school rankings and LEED or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.

I started this blog as a way to share information that I gathered from several sources on the topic of construction management education. When I started, I wasn’t sure how much time I would be able to devote to the blog; but, I have enjoyed posting from time to time over the past year.

The most enjoyable parts of the entire experience are the comments from the readers which ranged from a late career professional that was looking to switch careers into the construction industry to several students looking for information on construction management programs. I also received a good bit of feedback regarding my c-school rankings.

Please keep the comments coming.

– Mike

sdsu.jpgI am pleased to announce the second interview in the “Interview with a Construction Professor” Series at C-School Blog. The interview will begin with a brief biography of a college construction professor, followed by six standard questions about the professor’s program, and the interview will finish up with recent program statistics.

 

Professor Pat Pannell at South Dakota State was gracious enough to participate in this series. The following information was provided by Professor Panell on December 1st, 2007:

PAT PANNEL
Associate Professor and Program Coordinator at South Dakota State University’s Construction Management Program (BSCM) in the Engineering Technology and Management Department in the College of Engineering

BIOGRAPHICAL INFORMATION

Educational Background
– BSBA Accounting, University of Arkansas
– MBCN Master of building Construction Univ of Florida
– ABD Construction Education, Colorado State University

Tenure
Accruing

Classes Taught
Surveying, Heavy Construction Methods, Heavy Construction Estimating, Basic Estimating, Advanced Building Estimating, Project Management, Site Selection and Feasibility Analysis, Residential Construction. I do not teach all of these now but I have taught them in the past four years.

Research
Construction Education & Construction Management Paradigms

SIX QUESTIONS

1. What qualities do you see in a top construction student?
Strong Work Ethic, Interest in Construction, Enjoys working with people, Analytical problem solver.

 

2. What makes your program different from other construction programs?
We have strong interaction with industry, the industry experience level of our faculty is 100%, our facilities are better than most and we concentrate on educating the leaders of tomorrow. We encourage community and industry participation. We promote the attitude that our students are lucky to be in the best industry, in the best country, at the best time in history and they owe the community and industry their participation to make it better than it was before they got into it.

 

3. What do employers like the most about your students?
They like the work ethic, the responsibility, and the ability to fit into a team.

 

4. What are students looking for in internships and entry-level jobs?
We encourage the students to interview and research extensively before they commit to a job. The internship is part of that process and they are open to most experiences. They usually do not know what they want exactly until the end of their tenure as a student but our goal is that they make the most informed decision possible so that they will remain at their first job for a respectable time period.

 

5. What is the most important thing that a high school student should know about your program?
The incoming student should have good study habits, a decent math background, and proficiency in writing. If you are a recluse and do not enjoy interaction with people and solving people related problems this is not for you.

 

6. How does the construction industry support your program?
The industry companies come to and pay for our job fair twice a year, they participate in our advisory council, they serve as guest speakers, they contribute to our program for needed equipment when necessary, they contribute and support all student activities with contributions and participation, they participate and financially subsidize our internship program.

PROGRAM DATA

Accreditations (ACCE, ABET, others?): ACCE

How many students graduated from your program in 2006? 27 but we now have 250 students and that number will be jumping substantially.

What was the average compensation package (starting salary + signing bonus) for students in 2006? $46,000

Thanks go to Professor Pannell and the entire Construction Management Department at South Dakota State University for providing information on the program. If you are a construction professor that would like to be interviewed for this series, please contact me at micnel@gmail.com to indicate interest.