Considering our future and our real social security net—the industry's young talent—I will share some unconventional wisdom, as well as an alternate perspective on mastering of new technologies.

The punch line of many a cartoon or joke, “Wanted – recent college graduate with twenty years experience,” is a good start in this discussion.

HR departments today more than ever desire recent college graduates with specific software product training rather than the broader experience of perhaps a veteran who has returned to gain a college degree.

My students often ask me to view and comment on their resumes.Highlighted is fluency in PHP C++ Java, Word and Excel, or perhaps the coveted certification in AutoCad or Bentley CAD software.

The staples of old, such as shift manager at McDonald’s, assistant garage mechanic or flagger on construction roadwork project—all of which prove the applicant has experience of at least showing up at work on time each day, are way down on the resume if mentioned at all.

At a recent Association for Advancement of Cost Engineering International conference, the opening panel discussion focused on young talent being trained in the latest version of software.


Another speaker related how the cyclical nature of our business has now allowed too many to retire without training the next generation, and leaving gaps in the corporate knowledge base. Perhaps HR believes they can hire (read: steal) experience from other firms.

In a previous blog on, I noted how state DOTs, now intent on outsourcing design to PPPs, were undermining decades of institutional experience and knowledge and the future ability to even supervise new construction, let alone rebuild their vibrant and innovative design capabilities.

They too will now hire some “kid screen jockeys” to provide “dashboards” on project progress, production, and quality. They in turn will require the contractors to buy (or rent) reporting software that feeds data to the DOT enterprise database.

Another speaker at the AACE conference, a university professor, observed a trend of declining ability of students to talk, articulate or convey lucid and unambiguous information. I think Socrates had the same view of his students.

In my classes at Drexel and Temple universities, students are pushed to go beyond the text, lecture material and software tutorials. Does the software printout make sense? Does the suggested contract language sound workable in the real world?

At my own CPM conference, I ask top practitioners to share their wisdom, and to host sessions on how to navigate the latest release of software products of multiple vendors.

We say “Go home trained in three or more software product solutions.” But we also encourage attendees to learn from the masters in both scheduling and in associated fields of risk, cost, document control and claims resolution. We try to maximize networking and one-on-one interaction among speakers, vendor specialists and attendees. We try.

The ability to understand the numbers displayed on the screen; to comprehend and analyze the posted solution; to extrapolate; to interpolate; to recognize possible errors and gain insight to unexplored alternates—all of these cannot be taught in training manuals.

We need that overlap between the hiring of new talent and allowing the old to retire. We need more budget to send both old and new talent to professional conferences; to teach and to learn; and to interact with each other.

Fredric L. Plotnick is an engineering and construction consultant specializing in legal and technical aspects of project control and management. He is co-author of two textbooks on critical-path scheduling, teaches engineering at Drexel and Temple universities in Philadelphia and is a regular ENR blogger. His annual Construction CPM conference is set for January 12-17 in San Diego.

But the focus was different—more on how to imbue wisdom as well as skills. One speaker noted her agency had embarked on a 30-year building program, and yet the average age of professionals in the office is 55. Five of her 42 colleagues will retire within two years.