Monday 9 January 2012

Demonstrating Professional Credentials

A common theme, here at KnowledgeSmart, is that of skilled professionals being able to demonstrate their capability and credentials, whatever the subject.  And it is a topic which is being discussed at the highest levels, here in the UK, as 2012 rolls around.

Back in 2009, I posed the (rather tongue-in-cheek) question; what do bus drivers and welders have in common that CAD & BIM professionals don't?  The answer is simple; bus drivers and welders need to demonstrate their professional credentials on a regular basis throughout their careers, in order to be allowed to do their job.

Bus drivers (and lorry drivers) have to pass a 'certificate of professional competence' in order to drive their vehicles in the UK.  The CPC was developed as a requirement of a European Directive, designed to improve the knowledge and skills of professional LGV and PCV drivers throughout their working life. There are two parts to the legislation:

- An Initial Qualification that must be achieved by new (LGV and PCV) drivers along with their vocational licence to enable them to use their licence professionally.
- Periodic Training, which involves all professional drivers undertaking 35 hours of training every 5 years.

Meanwhile, welder certifications are specially designed tests to determine a welder's skill and ability to deposit sound weld metal. The tests consist of many variables, including the specific welding process, type of metal, thickness, joint design, position, and others. Most certifications expire after a certain time limit, and have different requirements for renewal or extension of the certification. Once a welder passes a test (or a series of tests) their employer will certify the ability to pass the test, and the limitations or extent they are qualified to weld, as a written document (welder qualification test record, or WQTR).

So if the driving industry has a recognised benchmark for performance and if the welding industry won't allow its members to pick up a blow-torch without first demonstrating they have the requisite skills, then why on earth does the AEC industry let just about anyone gain access to a CAD or BIM software license?

I remember reading a story on, a while back, highlighting the dangers of unqualified staff working on projects. A warehouse in Philadelphia suffered a major structural collapse, resulting in damages of $3.5M USD. A building-collapse expert concluded, 'The team committed several engineering errors of "amazing proportions" that caused the Philadelphia warehouse to fail under the weight of snow'. He found that the warehouse had only one-third of the steel roof framing it needed.

Someone using analysis software grossly underestimated the quantity of materials, the error went unnoticed, the building was constructed, the snow fell... and they firm got hit with $3.5M in costs. Plus a number of people were hurt when the roof fell in. Ouch! Suddenly a few extra dollars on testing a person's proficiency using engineering software, plus a few hours training, seems like a good use of the company resources!

A CIO at a large US design firm once said to me; “The minute you give someone a BIM license on their desktop – you are effectively giving them full access to your end product. You want to be sure they know what they are doing!”. This firm doesn't allocate a license to someone's desktop unless they have first met the minimum threshold competence level for performance, as identified by the firm's BIM administrators (using KnowledgeSmart, in this instance).

A bus company doesn't give someone the keys to its shiniest double-decker without making absolutely sure they have the current skills required to drive the vehicle. Isn't it time that the AEC industry recognised the need for clear skills certification in core authoring, BIM, Civil and analysis software packages? And a continuous improvement program for design and engineering professionals to demonstrate their credentials to their employers on an ongoing basis?

Well, hopefully, that is precisely what is happening, as the UK Government mandates use of BIM Level 2 on all appropriate construction projects, by 2016.  Despite (or perhaps because of) the ongoing economic hardship around the world, many firms are revisiting their technology assessment and training programmes, to make sure that they can measure the skills of key personnel.  Firms who can demonstrate to clients that they have the requisite skills to deliver a BIM project safely, on time and budget, will have a definite competitive advantage, as the clock counts down to 2016.


1 comment:

  1. This seems to be collapsing design and drafting. Would an architect or engineer blame the pen or the tracing paper for an engineering mistake?