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BIM4Education starts in the classroom

Alison Watson, Managing Director of Class of Your Own and the woman behind Design Engineer Construct!, talks about an exciting new CITB part-funded initiative, BIM4Education.

Where did the idea for BIM4Education come from?

Many of my colleagues are working at the cutting edge of digital design, engineering and construction. The rise of the BIM (Building Information Modelling) 4 Communities and the UK BIM Alliance have demonstrated that there are people who believe in collaboration and supporting the wider industry as it moves into the digital era.

There is a lot going on in industry and academia, but little in secondary and further education.

It was just after the launch of the Infrastructure Skills Strategy, when I said: "All these BIM4 groups are great, but what about BIM4Education? Schools still don't see the relevance to them!"

And so, after surrounding myself with some of the aforementioned collaborators, and with the support of Neighbourhood Services Company, the idea to develop a teacher-centric education project was born.

Why the focus on teachers?

Many educational institutions don’t have the capacity to deliver a curriculum fit for a digital industry. This is because colleges tend to deliver trade and craft subjects only, with entrenched cultures and difficulties recruiting appropriate teachers.

In schools, we’re dealing with the perceptions of construction as non-academic. Even Design Engineer Construct!, highly regarded by industry and academia alike, cannot always change this. And so, year on year, bright young talent slips through our fingers to other sectors.

Having worked with some exceptional teachers over the years, I'm convinced that we, as an industry, need to do more to support them. They are highly skilled, inspirational individuals.

I'd like to develop a new generation of Built Environment specialist teachers in secondary education and post-16 training to deliver bespoke programmes and qualifications.

What will BIM4Education do?

The initiative will give teachers targeted support and access to individuals and groups engaged in BIM.

The project’s three main strands are:

  1. Professional development for teachers with learning resources and support, centred around BIM processes provided by the Universities of Heriot Watt, Liverpool John Moores, Salford, Westminster and the UK BIM Alliance.
  2. Two Regional Centres of Excellence to showcase BIM processes at St Ambrose Barlow RC High School in Salford and the Alt Valley Community Trust in Liverpool.
  3. Monthly Built Environment roadshows in schools in which construction ambassadors, education professionals, students and parents take part in activities designed to increase the appeal of construction.

What do you hope the impact will be?

We hope we develop a new generation of specialist teachers who understand our industry’s processes and can translate them into exciting lessons for young people. The UK needs to be a world leader in this field of education.

For that to happen, teachers need the support of government, industry and academia, through continuous professional development and a training programme recognised by the National College and Department for Education.

If the built environment has respect and recognition in schools, then the dozens of excellent initiatives that promote our industry will have their place, and no longer be seen as a box ticking intervention.

Best of all, young people will discover rewarding careers for life

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