I have just completed speaking at two conferences and doing a site visit to prepare for the 5th annual Construction CPM Conference. At Trimble Dimensions, held in Las Vegas, I was wowed by a plethora of geo-spacial software products that support construction. As a licensed land surveyor, I recall from my youth driving stakes and tying ribbon to assist the effort to shape the land for a highway or parking lot. To now watch the degree of accuracy and finesse of autonomous graders contouring the land directly from a fly over survey and 3D CAD design is amazing. But I was caught by a comment of one of the speakers that his young newly hired technician apprentice trained to use a semi-autonomous survey device was four times more productive than the older licensed surveyor on his staff. Why the licensed surveyor was still employed was not explained. Perhaps knowing how the calculations were made, rather than merely being a mule for the device, still has some value to the employer.

At the AACE (Association for Advancement of Cost Engineering International) SoCal Fall Symposium, the opening panel discussion also focused upon young talent being trained in the latest version of software. But the focus was different and more on how to imbue wisdom as well as skills. One speaker noted her agency had embarked on a thirty year project program, and yet the average age of professionals in the office is 55. Five of her 42 colleagues will retire within two years. 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 knowledgebase. A third speaker observed from his university a trend of declining ability of students to talk, articulate or convey lucid and unambiguous information. But I think Socrates had the same view of his students.

At Construction CPM Conference I have attempted to draw upon the top practitioners in our field to share their wisdom, as well as 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 amongst 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.