Executive Summary

A perception has arisen among many federal construction officials that recent graduates in architecture and engineering lack sufficient training for professional careers in facility design and construction. While similar doubts have been expressed in recent years by employers of engineers in a variety of industries, the Committee on Education of Facilities Design and Construction Professionals focused on the needs of the construction industries.

The committee was charged with investigating general allegations of unpreparedness among graduates of engineering and architectural programs. Specifically, the committee considered the following educational areas: design; construction; technology; teamwork; business, economics, and management; and the liberal arts and communications skills. In determining that improvement could be made in all of these areas, the committee concentrated on areas directly affecting professional performance and requiring attention as part of a first-level professional degree program.

The committee concluded that the following three areas are of serious concern:

  • Most architectural graduates possess a good understanding of the design process and broad design concepts but lack a knowledge of the practical and technical aspects of construction, such as designing to a budget. Many engineering graduates have little knowl-



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Education of Architects and Engineers for Careers in Facility Design and Construction Executive Summary A perception has arisen among many federal construction officials that recent graduates in architecture and engineering lack sufficient training for professional careers in facility design and construction. While similar doubts have been expressed in recent years by employers of engineers in a variety of industries, the Committee on Education of Facilities Design and Construction Professionals focused on the needs of the construction industries. The committee was charged with investigating general allegations of unpreparedness among graduates of engineering and architectural programs. Specifically, the committee considered the following educational areas: design; construction; technology; teamwork; business, economics, and management; and the liberal arts and communications skills. In determining that improvement could be made in all of these areas, the committee concentrated on areas directly affecting professional performance and requiring attention as part of a first-level professional degree program. The committee concluded that the following three areas are of serious concern: Most architectural graduates possess a good understanding of the design process and broad design concepts but lack a knowledge of the practical and technical aspects of construction, such as designing to a budget. Many engineering graduates have little knowl-

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Education of Architects and Engineers for Careers in Facility Design and Construction edge of the design process or of how to solve specific design problems. Most engineers and architects leave school with inadequate knowledge of the role of technology in their professions. This is especially true for architectural schools that de-emphasize the use of technology in, for example, construction methods, materials, and systems in favor of teaching broad design concepts. Technology has been largely eliminated from the engineering curriculum in most schools so as to focus on science, math, and basic engineering principles. Most architectural and engineering students leave school with little knowledge of business, economics, and management, adversely affecting graduates' ability to serve their clients, understand the concerns of their employers, manage projects effectively, and qualify for more responsible positions. The committee recommended a follow-up study to explore solutions to the problems identified in this report. The committee stressed that fundamental issues need to be addressed, such as defining those areas that fall under the purview of the school and those that can be learned more efficiently on the job. A follow-up study should investigate the need for integrating formal educational programs with continuing education and lifelong learning. It should define what are the reasonable and realistic expectations of schools in teaching the desired skills within the basic degree programs. The committee looked at internal factors that may undermine the quality of professional educational programs, including faculty orientation, curriculum development, teaching methods, and attrition. The committee concluded that teaching in many engineering schools suffers because the academic rewards system causes instructors to devote a disproportionate amount of time to research. Architectural schools do not appear to have as serious a problem in this area. Engineering education suffers in some schools because of an overreliance on teaching assistants and because many engineering instructors have little or no design experience. On the other hand, architectural instructors tend to emphasize the art of design over practical concerns important in actual construction. Both the excessive research orientation and an institutional bias against the teaching of aspects relating to practical experience affect the quality of students education. In looking at curriculum development, the committee found that existing engineering and architectural curricula do not adequately prepare graduates for professional practice in facilities design and construction. Responsibility for this deficiency extends to the organizations that ac-

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Education of Architects and Engineers for Careers in Facility Design and Construction credit these programs. Schools should appreciate requirements that students will be expected to meet upon graduation and provide for programs that teach those skills. This encompasses teaching students the multiple aspects of the design process, including specialized technologies and designing to budget, and providing humanities courses that will be meaningful to engineers and architects in defining their place in the world. The committee recommended that employers apply market pressure by taking a more pro-active role by participating in internship programs and by selecting graduates from institutions that meet their needs. Problems with the system for educating engineers and architects will not be solved quickly. A great deal may be achieved by direct action by employers. The committee suggests that federal agencies consider the following interim measures to enhance their ability to find and retain qualified construction professionals: Improve recruitment methods. Investigate more thoroughly the schools producing candidates to identify those curricula that match needs. Test candidates for competence in the desired areas. Depart from the practice of hiring only from professional-level engineering and architectural programs. Recruit from schools of construction and from schools of technology, many of which have good quality curricula that focus on applied knowledge. Improve post-hiring practices. Institute continuing education and mentoring programs after graduation. Conduct more frequent evaluations, tracking employees by college, program, and testing prior to job selection. Clarify employers' expectations of their design and construction employees. Communicate expectations to colleges. Provide more internship opportunities for undergraduates.

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