Now this is a tricky one to come up with an answer for! I’ve had new construction graduates on site and they tend to be young horrors that upset the skilled tradesmen! They don’t seem to be of much use when asked to deal with the daily paperwork and getting it filed away, either.Construction GraduatesConstruction graduates have spent three years at University and have photos with themselves in Cap and Gown to prove it. For that I have to congratulate them. What happened, though, when they got the letter telling them they had passed their Finals is that their self-esteem shot up and they suddenly consider themselves to be “construction experts”! Along with that comes an acute dose of “intellectual arrogance”. On site they think they know more about everything than anyone else – with the exception of my humble self, of course.

Don’t remember when or where I picked it up, but something I keep repeating to all and sundry is:-

“The most important thing to know is what you don’t know!”

……. and the problem with new construction graduates is that they don’t know enough to begin to understand that there is an awful lot about construction that they don’t know! Its nature is “Complexity, Uniqueness and Uncertainty”. If we oldies walk onto a site we know full well that we haven’t a clue and that we’ll just have to “suck it and see, then make it up aswe go along”.

Another thing I often point out is that, on a commercial construction site, a competent middle-aged tradesman knows more about his speciality than any of us: me, Architects, Engineers, Consultants. On that basis the best way to prepare construction graduates for the construction site would be down to the Universities. Teach them that they “know nothing from nowt!” I can’t see that happening, though. That being the case it looks as if it is the older site-based managers who will have to prepare them which can only happen once they appear on site.

What I have done on occasions in the past is, once their site induction is over, bring them into the Office shut the door and sit them down. I then try to get it across to them that they are only just starting on a steep learning curve that will make their Uni days seem like a doddle. They are to walk around the site observing what is going on and politely asking questions. If I went for a wander round, I took them with me and waffled on about what we were looking at. Tried to get it across that, as far as he was concerned, the lads were there to ask, not tell what to do.

In some circumstances he could actually help the lads. Example being if they wanted to know when materials were arriving or a query on a drawing, he would be in a better position to help them than they were themselves. They’d appreciate that and think kindly of him for it.

The biggest problem in preparing construction graduates for a construction site, though, is getting their heads around the idea of “leadership”. They all have the idea that having a degree automatically makes them “Leaders” on site. Trying to get them to let go of this delusion is difficult! They never seemed to want to hear that leadership isn’t something we can claim. It is ascribed to us by others!

The only recommendation I can make about preparing Construction Graduates for the Construction Site is to be patient with them! That isn’t exactly easy when we already have 1,000 loose pieces of string we have to try and deal with!