Careers in BIM Series: Episode #1

By John Gelder, Senior Lecturer, University of South Australia

This WIB panel was chaired by global WIB lead Rebecca De Cicco. The panellists were Belinda Thompson, BIM lead at GHD, Kandace Bowles of the Parametric BIM consultancy, Eleni Khoury, BIM lead at Mossop Construction, John Gelder, a lecturer at the University of South Australia and ex-NBS, and Stewart Caldwell, a director at Russell and Yelland.

The panel discussed a range of BIM-related topics, including links between industry and education, roles and responsibilities in the ‘BIM space’, and career progression for young people in BIM. This topic is becoming very important as it touches on some of the problems industry is facing with the lack of skills and clearly guided career routes for young people in BIM.

On links between industry and education, a recent draft report from the Australian BIM Academic Forum(ABAF) was mentioned (‘BIM education at Australian universities: 2020 insights’). Universities are very aware of the issue and some are beginning to discuss the importance of BIM and how to integrate into curriculum.

Stewart Caldwell argued for more collaborative assessment of undergraduates, rather than individual assessments, based on his experience in teaching architecture students at Adelaide University. He also argued for micro-credentialling, such as the ‘BIMcreds’ offered by buildingSMART Australia, and Industry 4.0 apprenticeships in the AEC industry.

Kandace discussed the need for people with industry BIM experience to teach at University level, and for graduates with no BIM experience to build that up before taking on BIM-specific roles such as BIM Manager. She also mentioned the eagerness for early entrants to take on roles like BIM Manager or BIM Coordinator, without having full knowledge of what the role entails.

John picked up on the collaborative assessment idea, arguing for assessments involving both single-discipline teams and multi-disciplinary teams. In the construction management discipline, which includes building and quantity surveyors, both are common, but engagement with architecture and engineering students is close to non-existent. However, this depends on the structure of the individual university. He also suggested that BIM should be embedded in all AEC university courses where relevant rather than taught as a separate, and optional, specialism.

On roles and responsibilities in the ‘BIM space’ both Rebecca and Belinda discussed the need for clarity around role requirements in businesses. Belinda mentioned that she actually crafted her own role around what she felt was appropriate based on her knowledge and experience in BIM.

Eleni knows that contractors often expect BIM project documentation to be fully coordinated, but this is still unrealistic. Contractors need to engage to get the project ‘over the line’. Architects with a BIM background but working directly for contractors help to bridge the gaps in understanding between the two disciplines, avoiding the ‘blame game’ and facilitating collaboration.

Rebecca pointed out that all the panellists had an architectural background. Stewart thought that this was because architects have a holistic view of projects. Stewart’s own role is now ‘above’ BIM as a director in his practice, and other younger people are taking over the roles he once had. They are not necessarily as enthusiastic about BIM as Stewart has been, nor are they as experienced, and this presents challenges.

John added that the role of BIM Manager was perhaps a temporary one, just as the role of CAD Manager was. Once BIM is just ‘a part of the furniture’, such a role might not be needed. Rebecca suggested that the role of BIM Manager may be superseded by that of Information Management which seems to be regularly appearing in industry at present.

On career progression for young people in BIM, Belinda sees BIM as currently a niche in urgent need of expertise so if you have the expertise and interest then BIM offers opportunities to young people coming into the industry.

John suggested that BIM training for older people returning to the AEC industry – particularly women – was essential but often overlooked.

This was an insightful and honest presentation discussing some of the career pathways which may occur in industry and how important it is to nurture and education young women and men in these pathways to ensure we have the skills needed to be able to implement BIM and Digital Engineering across the sector in Australia and in fact all over the world.

Women in BIM members can watch the recording of this event in the On demand events section in MyWIB.

For more information, including the WIB mentor scheme, refer to the WIB websiteMentimeter software was used during the panel, to record the views of the audience.