Construction education, like all other areas of education across the globe, has fallen short in providing the industry experience needed for sustaining the progressive and innovative practices championed by Fortune 500 companies. Past studies echo the perceived differences between industry practitioners and academia in identifying the core cause of a current and future training shortfall. Each party lays claim to engaging some positives while downplaying the efforts put in by the other rather than working together to provide student opportunities to engage and be trained to fill critical positions in the industry.
One solution worth implementing would be to engage academia and industry practitioners under one platform to train young graduates moving on to industry practice after graduating from academia along with mentoring students at the high school level for efficient learning outcomes.
The University of Wyoming’s construction management program has adopted the “Teaching With Industry” (TWI) model in developing its yearly curriculum to help offset the losses in construction professions as retirements and other exits beckon. This university-based teaching model lists a minimum of two industry practitioners on the syllabus as co-instructors who help teach content. TWI further allows the inclusion of industry practitioners to bring the lived experiences of field of practice to the classroom and to bridge the gap between the theoretically based coursework and required industry skills. TWI, in its recent implementation, has included video conferencing technologies to help enhance easy access to industry practitioners and their project sites, thereby providing more connection between students and the industry environment at large.
The TWI model supports leveraging the divide between the academic classroom work and the industry expertise. Up to 57 industry practitioners teach in the UWYO program. Students appreciate this involvement because they can ask questions and receive answers from people working in the field in real time. Additionally, the feedback from the industry practitioners—for both students and the construction management program—provides valuable information in the ongoing development of these types of programs. The University of Wyoming co-teaching initiative leads to an outcome that supports a widely accepted and definite enhancement of the employability of its graduates. Feedback from all engaged stakeholders suggests the TWI program is one of the deciding factors on students’ readiness to engage in future classes with industry support and is an excellent track for industry recruitment.
In an article written for the Journal of Vocational Behavior, the authors emphasize that “career competencies are positively related to perceived employability and that the relationship between career competencies and career success mediates perceived employability,” (Blokker, et al, 2019). For educators seeking a unifying platform that embraces all stakeholders to connect through a common source of information sharing, one of the many possibilities is to take advantage of the surge in the use of virtual technology platforms for multilateral engagements.
If the construction industry is really in need of highly skilled employees, companies, associations and other stakeholders need to be ready and willing to share their expertise in the form of teaching with academic and technical trades trainers.