The Level 2 BIM deadline for publicly procured construction work has now passed. A contractor and a consultant share their views on BIM skills and the current job market for BIM professionals.
Alex Lubbock BIM development manager Carillion
The contractor: Alex Lubbock, BIM development manager, Carillion
We don’t have a BIM team – we’ve never run with a central resource dedicated to delivering BIM. It’s been about training people who sit in existing job roles, and the number of people with skills and capabilities has grown.
Some of our peers have centralised teams, which works for them. For me, BIM was never really about creating additional roles, it was about advancing the capabilities of the people we have.
There’s been a bit of a lag in terms of customers’ approach, but it seems to have moved forward quite quickly over the last six months, and I expect it to move forward very quickly over the next six months.
Internally, it’s appreciated that the vast majority of our pipeline over the next three years is going to be delivered for customers that have an expectation around this, whether at Level 2 or beyond, or less than. People are preparing in line with that.
We’ve updated role profiles within the organisation to reflect software skills being of benefit. We’re also working with Balfour Beatty, Laing O’Rourke and Imtech on developing an apprenticeship, which will be the first of its kind. There’s a definite need to plug a skills gap and attract more school-leavers into the industry.
If you look at the job market, you can see the cost for the same job title vary dramatically. When recruiting, I would say that there’s a trade-off depending on the kind of person.
“BIM was never really about creating additional roles, it was about advancing the capabilities of the people we have”
If you get the right type of person who’s willing to balance moving forward with their pay, remuneration and education, that’s good. There comes a time when their value in the market increases, or if they’re a high-need person in terms of their learning they’ll want to find the next thing – how do you balance that?
We’ve also got to avoid the Primavera scenario. In the planning environment around London there’s a demand to use Primavera – and a heck of a lot of consultants out there in the market get paid a huge fortune just for having Primavera skills. Some of them are very capable planners as well, but they do get paid quite exorbitant amounts of money.
BIM has the potential to head down that route if we don’t address the skills gap. But I think it’s quite a generational thing – I don’t think we’ll see business-as-usual where everyone has CAD skills, data management skills and coding skills until we’re well into the mid-2020s.
The consultant: Joe Stott, practice BIM manager, AHR
Joe Stott practice BIM manager AHR
Within the business we have a core production team of which I’m practice BIM manager.
The central production group drives the strategy. We discuss overall strategy and that’s pushed out into the offices, which each have a BIM co-ordinator – it’s their responsibility to push the knowledge out to a project level.
We are predominantly architectural, but we also have a building consultancy business that deals with smaller-scale projects on a faster turnaround time and a geomatics team that is traditionally our surveying team but do laser-scanning and a scan-to-BIM service.
We always look to promote from within wherever possible. Our BIM co-ordinators are technicians or architects and tend to be the people who have the right aptitude for learning new skills or new technologies. We’ll focus training on those BIM co-ordinators and upskill them.
“We always look to promote from within wherever possible. Our BIM co-ordinators are technicians or architects and tend to be the people who have the right aptitude for learning new skills or new technologies”
We have seen demand for BIM increase. The mandate has certainly driven the market from the top down – whereas previously we’d push it as having benefits to the design time, the focus is shifting to the benefits for the end users and the clients, and they’re telling the design teams what they want to achieve out of using BIM. It’s a shift to a more collaborative, target-driven BIM.
Our next push is to reinforce the BIM co-ordinator’s role – different practices and sectors call these people different things. We need people to take control of the BIM process and drive collaboration within the team.
Previously we had people doing that but it wasn’t necessarily a formal role. In the last year, we’ve looked to formalise that position, and advertised internally for people to put their hands up and come forward – and associated with that was a salary increase.
I think BIM is often described as a disruptive technology – and I think it’s disruptive from the point of view of skillsets required as well. There’s not a fixed market or a fixed solution for how things should be done, it’s constantly evolving.
I’m not too convinced about the effectiveness of BIM qualifications as they tend to come at the expense of practical experience. I think you’ve got to have a balance between being young and vibrant and adapting to technology quickly, and the practical experience of how buildings actually come together.
What we don’t want is just a highly skilled software team – the risk is you lose track of the aim of producing better buildings through more efficient designs. There’s a danger it becomes about technology, losing track of why we’re doing it in the first place.
Having BIM expertise does open doors. You’ll find that everyone is a BIM expert on the jobs market, so we’re a bit wary of that. I’d personally rather have someone who comes with an open mind.