September 17, 2021
Given the change of course that has happened in the world, we wanted to provide expert opinions on what aspiring graduates can do to start off their careers in an uncertain economic climate. We wanted to know what skills will be more important, where the economy is doing relatively well, and if there will be any lasting effects on the job market.
Companies are looking for candidates that can handle the new responsibilities of the job market. Recent graduates actually have an advantage because they are comfortable using newer technologies and have been communicating virtually their whole lives. They can take what they've learned and apply it immediately.
We spoke to professors and experts from several universities and companies to get their opinions on where the job market for recent graduates is heading, as well as how young graduates entering the industry can be adequately prepared. Here are their thoughts.
The University of Texas at Arlington
Bowling Green State University
Doña Ana Community College
California Polytechnic State University-San Luis Obispo
University of Maine
University of San Diego
University of Michigan
Brigham Young University - Idaho
Bijan Shapoorian: -Leadership
-Planning and Scheduling
Bijan Shapoorian: Effective interaction and communication with project stakeholders.
Bijan Shapoorian: Knowledge and experience with the latest software and technological tools.
Bijan Shapoorian: Work experience and Internship during academic years results in higher salary for CM graduates. Employers always search for more experienced candidates with knowledge in
Planning and scheduling and cost estimating.
Bowling Green State University
College of Technology Architecture and Applied Engineering
Alan Atalah Ph.D.: Understanding the construction estimating and scheduling functions and using and applying this understanding with their applicable software programs (add to that BIM, AutoCAD, and contract administration software). Also, understanding and appreciating the construction contract and knowing the contractual rights and obligations of their firms. Understanding the needed safety and quality assurance and control procedures and how to ensure that project parties adhere to these procedures.
Alan Atalah Ph.D.: Dealing with people to earn their trust and faith in you. Knowing that people skills are much more than small talk and schmoozing. Communications orally and in writing. Listening to other people and trying your best to serve their interests as much as possible. Reading people. Creating a working environment where there is mutual trust among the project team members. Honoring your word and commitments to the best of your abilities. Willingness to learn and eagerness for professional growth.
Steering and focusing their intellectual and physical abilities to create the maximum value to their employer.
Alan Atalah Ph.D.: Problem-solving involves defining the problem correctly, comprehending the facts related to the problem, identifying potential alternative solutions, devising selection criteria evaluate the alternatives, and selecting the best alternative solution.
Ability to use the a/c software programs to create value for the employer.
Simultaneously, visualizing the site and its surroundings, building and its requirements, time and sequence of operations, cost, quality, safety, etc., simultaneously avoids problems and solves problems quickly when they arise.
Alan Atalah Ph.D.: In the short run, the a/c technical and hard skills are crucial to enhance their chances of getting a decent job. In the long run, the a/c soft skills are crucial for adding value to their employers and their customers (owners), subcontractors, vendors, consultants, etc. I would also add the managerial and leadership abilities; they are two different sets of skills.
Doña Ana Community College
Architecture & Construction Technologies
Chipper Moore: I believe the ability to work independently and effectively remotely are highly-valued skills at the moment. With many individuals having to work from home, the ability to remain productive is critical to success in the current business environment. I also believe the utilization of collaborative technologies that have facilitated communication during the pandemic will continue to be used, and used to a greater extent, in the post-pandemic workplace.
Chipper Moore: Building Information Modeling (BIM) software (e.g. - Autodesk REVIT) skills are critical. Additonally, skills with structural and MEP (Mechanical, Electrical, and Plumbing) components of BIM software packages can really seperate one candidate from another. I would also say employers really like candidates who also have skills in non-CAD software packages, such as Adobe Suite, and other related CAD/technical software, such as Civil/Survey design or GIS software. Candidates with some cross-training in another area outside of architectural technology are often viewed as preferable by employers.
Chipper Moore: In my experience, I have seen starting salaries and demand for well-prepared architectural technology graduates increase over the last several years. I have also seen an increase in salaries for individuals with experience, as companies compete for the services of those individuals.
Hani Alzraiee Ph.D., P. Eng., PMP.: Indeed, Covid-19 is impacting and will have an impact on the construction sector for the coming two to four years. Most of the current projects were planned and approved for funding before the pandemic hit the world, and that's why we still see construction activities around us. But the big question is how many projects have been approved for funding in the past seven months? With the current decline in the economy and budget cuts across all sectors, the effect of the pandemic on construction will be visible in the coming three years. Currently, graduates in the area of construction are receiving job offers - some are getting three or four offers - and some graduates have their offers rescinded. The market is surviving now because of the projects that were in the pipe before the pandemic hit the world.
Hani Alzraiee Ph.D., P. Eng., PMP.: The construction sector is moving fast toward "Digital Construction Execution and Delivery". Knowledge in construction execution technologies, and particularly cloud construction, represents the future of the sector. Graduate students should continue learning and taking online classes about the sector they work in after graduating. This is a fast-moving sector toward using high technologies, and graduates should be ready to work remotely through utilizing data collection tools and data-sharing infrastructure. That's why it is really important to focus on digital construction practices.
Hani Alzraiee Ph.D., P. Eng., PMP.: I advise students to look for summer internship opportunities. This will help them learn about the sector and establish connections with professionals in the field. Many of my students reported to me that they have received job offers after completing a summer internship from the same organization. Also, knowing how to use the tools and the software used by the industry is something that can make a resume stand out. Investing in soft skills and community volunteering can improve graduate opportunities in the job market.
Raymond Hintz: Don't be afraid to re-locate, and if no family, don't be afraid to travel.
Raymond Hintz: Combined GNSS/IMU in backup with hand held lidar.
Raymond Hintz: Excellent - but it depends on location and ability to travel for the best ones.
Chris P. Caddell: I anticipate the basic technical skills will largely be the same as today. However, I expect graduates will need greater familiarity with configuring software. This skill will be moving from an IT-exclusive capability to a useful skill that new graduates will need. From a softer skills perspective, young graduates will need to be self-motivated, self-aware, and outspoken. As our world moves to more remote working, graduates will need to be self-motivated because there may be no one (physically) there to push them. They will need to be self-aware of when they are struggling and need help. And they will need to be outspoken about asking for help when they need it and making sure they make their voices heard.
Chris P. Caddell: The best places for graduates to find work in the cost estimating field, at least for construction, is dependent in part on the industry. Smaller owners and contractors are prevalent throughout the U.S. in cities and large towns. Major cities continue to be the hub for owners and contractors that are involved with major construction projects. Houston, Atlanta, Denver, and Philadelphia are some of the more active cities, but it really depends.
Chris P. Caddell: I think we are moving in a direction to be able to capture more data on projects and using that to inform our future cost estimates. The ability to analyze large amounts of data will be critical to improving our estimating process. As technology starts to influence our construction techniques, our older estimating guides and metrics will become antiquated and no longer valid. Some new technology is helping to improve estimating through improved visualization of the data and the actual work to be performed. So technology will influence both the actual construction work and how we estimate it.
Dr. Maryam Keshtzari: Since individuals have different career goals, they have different definitions for "the best" companies to get hired.
I believe new graduates must consider their long-term professional development when they want to accept an offer. Large companies usually have the resources to train their young employees and interns. Having said that, I would suggest young professionals consider starting their career with large companies. One of the advantages of holding a Systems Engineering degree is that it covers a broad range of disciplines, which gives the graduates the flexibility to work in almost every industry. Therefore, because of the interdisciplinary approach in Systems Engineering, graduates can pursue careers in many public and private sectors, including but not limited to, aerospace, defense, high-tech, manufacturing, transportation, healthcare, airline, and delivery services industry.
I have seen many graduates getting jobs in companies such as FedEx, Boeing, Walmart, Amazon, Southwest, etc. But again, there are a lot of promising opportunities in smaller private firms that graduates may consider. Let's remember that systems engineers' main role is to optimize the process in firms, and it is something that all companies (regardless of their size) can benefit from.
Dr. Maryam Keshtzari: Considering the U.S.'s strong economy, I think it has been an increasing demand for system engineers, and such demand will continue to grow as companies introduce new products and services every day. Companies need systems engineers to manage the complexities and risks in production planning and develop pioneer solutions to ensure high efficiency and low operations costs. Even if industries face significant changes in the nature of their demand and supply, both systems engineers and the firms have the capacity to quickly adjust themselves and keep up with the potential changes, considering their interdisciplinary background. This demand will continue to grow unless we experience a massive downturn in the economy that may affect the job market as a whole.
Dr. Maryam Keshtzari: It is safe to say that most companies are leaning towards making data-driven decisions to maintain their comparative advantage over competitors through optimizing their processes. Therefore, a lot of opportunities are available coast to coast for graduates in Systems Engineering. Many big companies, offering great opprotunities, are located in Northeast and Pacific regions, including New York, California, and Washington states. Texas and Florida also are attractive destinations. But, at the end of the day, it is up to the job applicants and their career/life expectations where they want to settle and raise their family.
Vineet Kamat Ph.D.: I don't expect there to be an enduring impact of the pandemic on the prospects of construction graduates, beyond any ongoing temporary hiring freezes or slowdowns that may have occurred due to the associated lockdowns and short-term turmoil that has resulted from the pandemic. Several construction projects were among the first worksites to safely resume work in the US after the lockdown and continue to come back online as best practices in the health-informed resumption of work become more clear. As such, I expect the demand for construction graduates to be at their pre-pandemic levels shortly.
Vineet Kamat Ph.D.: Generally speaking, construction work in the US is concentrated in areas that are population centers (such as the east and west coasts) or industrial centers (such as TX and LA). For instance, several major rails and light transit projects are underway in Las Vegas, California, and Washington state, as well as in NYC, which also has significant building construction projects ongoing. Major energy-related infrastructure is also under construction in the southern states of the US, all of which will provide good opportunities for construction graduates in the upcoming months and years.
Vineet Kamat Ph.D.: Technology will help construction stakeholders collaborate effectively and remotely in the upcoming future through the deployment of various cloud collaboration digital tools. In addition, the introduction of robot co-workers on construction sites is likely to improve the work experience of human workers through demonstrated examples and case studies of such deployments.
Mike Sessions: We noted some of the commercial contractors pulled back on hiring last semester, but all of them seem poised to hire about a typical number of graduates this semester. We also noted last semester that residential contractors increased hiring. As such, there were more openings last semester for graduates in residential than in commercial construction. We have not seen this dynamic since the great recession. Obviously, if the virus persists, and there is no vaccine, the virus will impact the economy, which will impact construction.
Mike Sessions: Our graduates find work all over the US, but more particularly in the western US, because western-based contractors tend to recruit at BYU-Idaho more than do eastern-based contractors. Utah, California, and Arizona seem to capture more of our students than do other western states.
Mike Sessions: The construction industry is undergoing a revolution, and one of the most important tools of that revolution is BIM. Because of this revolution, a couple of years ago, we implemented a four-year Virtual Design and Construction program that emphasizes BIM, and the program exposes students to scanning, photogrammetry, animation, and other related technologies. Computerized CPM network scheduling was probably the last major technological advance that made a significant impact in the industry, but BIM is poised to revolutionize everything, from design through operation and maintenance. We only see the tip of the proverbial iceberg in terms of how BIM and related technologies will revolutionize the industry. Today, these technologies are providing tools and methods to plan, schedule, train, do takeoffs, provide quality assurance, increase productivity, perfect coordination, and even provide automation in ways that are great leaps forward and were simply impractical just three or four years ago.