...and civil-engineering majors to foster collaboration skills and pushing more courses in sustainability, virtual-design and construction, public-private partnerships and entrepreneurship, as well as offering opportunities for students to obtain partial or full LEED and safety certifications before graduation, he says.

Virtual design Technology at Columbia University will hone students’ global team-collaboration skills.
Photo: Columbia University Project Network Dynamics Lab
Virtual design Technology at Columbia University will hone students� global team-collaboration skills.

New York City-based Columbia University’s Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science says it has managed to avoid draconian cuts because its revenue base is not heavily endowment-dependent, and because the school has tapped its alumni, says Feniosky Pena-Mora, its newly appointed dean.

The school is boosting students’ exposure to the global industry through a recently signed agreement with Italy’s University of Bologna to provide master’s-level students with credentials to allow them to practice in Europe and elsewhere. It also has a new technology initiative to enable students to collaborate “virtually” with those in Helsinki, Finland and Madras, India, on global teams “on real-world projects,” says Pena-Mora.

“The course exposes students to advanced systems and technologies for global project collaboration and to the challenges of working across time zones and cultures,” Pena-Mora says. The school also is launching a “virtual internship” program to allow students to work remotely on a project “anywhere in the U.S.,” he adds.

While many construction-industry firms are evaluating employment strategies in line with market recovery, not all have halted recruiting. “We view it as a strategic imperative,” says Adam Gersh, human-resources manager for Malcolm Pirnie, White Plains, N.Y. “When we neglect it, we have a talent deficit four or five years down the road.”

Adds Bruce Grewcock, CEO of Omaha-based Kiewit, “I don’t care what happens in 2010—people are what drive our business. We have to continuously hire and train. If we don’t, we’ll have a real problem.”