The Inclusion of Students in Construction Industry Conversations
Something to be Considered in the Construction Industry
For an industry perceived to have no future because of its volatile nature, the construction industry needs to do more towards securing its future, and that includes giving special attention to the people more likely to witness that future: students.
Every year students are side-lined or excluded and deprived of having a voice about issues concerning the very same industry they are studying towards.
On average, there are more than ten conferences a year organised by the various professional bodies in the construction industry, where all the “elites” of the industry meet and discuss the many issues the industry is subjected to, but none of them are organised or designed to accommodate students.
As much as they are open for everyone to attend, the prices placed on the tickets and the ‘eliteness or exclusiveness’ surrounding the events make it impossible for us students to attend and it seems no one ever thinks about it.
Furthermore, there is generally a lack of investment in students by industry stakeholders. Yes, the industry is susceptible to economic fluctuations, but investing in students also includes giving them a seat at the table to engage with the industry on all issues.
No matter how you look at it, the industry is disengaged not only from the students but also from the learning institutions; the two do not understand each other’s needs, and this is the general feeling amongst students.
At an institution like Wits University, it takes four years to get an honours degree in Quantity Surveying or Construction Management which is the entry point to the industry. But on many occasions, students have found themselves being told that they don’t have the necessary skills or experience to be hired.
The above goes to show that there is a gap between the two; the institution doesn’t produce what the industry is looking for, and the industry doesn’t understand the type of product the institution is producing.
This situation leaves us students in a position where we are overlooked. Not only are we overlooked regarding skills competence, but we are also undermined intellectually.
More often than not, when companies and professional bodies engage with students, they all come with the notion that we only seek employment opportunities from them. Employment we do want, but we also have something to contribute towards propelling the industry to a more prosperous future.
We are saying to the industry: give us a seat at the table to engage with all stakeholders and practitioners, give us an opportunity to voice ourselves in your conferences and seminars.
Professional bodies and construction companies need to realise and recognise the importance of considering a student’s perspective in all industry conversations. It does not help either the industry as a whole nor the companies to assume what students want and are interested in.
Robust engagement with students needs to take place if they want to holistically approach industry-related issues and come up with viable solutions. The professional bodies and industry stakeholders need to stop planning our future by default and start including us in the planning process.