Increased emphasis on technology and team-based project delivery highlighted learning opportunities at the Associated General Contractors of America’s 93rd Annual Convention in Honolulu March 13–17. Most of the convention’s workshops and continuing education sessions were focused on emerging skills important to today’s contractors—jobsite technology, collaboration, risk management and improved leadership skills, said AGC spokesman Brian Turmail.
“We are very aware of the technology learning curve for most contractors right now, and we’re doing everything we can to address that,” he said.
AGC CEO Steve Sandherr also announced that the association will offer all four units of its BIM education program as an app for cell phones and tablets, available from the Apple store in late April. “It is part of our ongoing initiative to help keep contractors on the cutting edge of technology,” Sandherr said.
AGC also enhanced its lean construction education program with a tiered approach geared specifically to project executives, managers and “lean champions” within firms. The new curriculum includes an eight-credit “Lean 101” overview that aims to enhance collaboration at the jobsite level. But workshop presenter Stewart Trapino with the Linbeck Group LLC, Houston, advised lean construction advocates not to overcomplicate the lean process early in its implementation within firms because “the (emerging) technical skills of many trades don’t yet allow for everything to be done on electronic tablets and virtual models,” he said.
The technology theme also is a key component of the platform for AGC’s 2012 president, Joe Jarboe, a senior vice president at Clark Construction Group, Bethesda, Md.
Jarboe, who assumed the presidency on the final day of the convention, told the convention's nearly 1,800 attendees that the industry is in “one of the most significant transformations in its history, with technologies that are breaking down old silos and connecting people in new ways.” He challenged AGC members to improve their technological skills and explore new ways of building connections among themselves and across the industry. “If you are not already involved in BIM, what are you waiting for?” he said.
Jarboe said the construction industry “still has a couple of rough years ahead of it” with the current low bidders’ market but reminded colleagues that “the real talent is in being the low bidder for the right price because you’ve figured out the job better than your competitors.” Jarboe, an experienced estimator, will use his presidential year in part to tout the value of mentoring young constructors in how to analyze risk and reward. “We need to make people understand that this is a risky business made worse by current conditions,” he said.
Jarboe encouraged AGC members to expand their connections with fellow contractors as well as the design community. “You have to be peripheral—where you understand the owner, you understand the architect, and you’re working together,” he said. “You’re building these connections that will benefit you, but also the industry.”
Futurist Daniel Burrus, CEO of Burrus Research Associates Inc., Hartland, Wis., told convention attendees that they need to “up the value of old technology” rather than abandon it altogether, by integrating it with new approaches. “Technology isn’t just accelerating change in the world. It is transforming it,” he said.