Future breakthroughs in construction productivity will no doubt be fuelled by widespread adoption of good construction software, with tech-savvy workers fresh out of school leading the charge.
But as a recent roundtable meeting involving Procore executives at George Brown College in Toronto illustrated, the outreach process to ensure the right technology ends up in the hands of the next crop of construction workers is an inexact science.
A handful of Procore’s top brass including California-based founder and CEO Tooey Courtemanche visited the college April 4 as part of the software giant’s efforts to advance the reach of Procore’s social impact arm, procore.org. Through its efforts, 30,000 students around the world are learning to use Procore software each year, including 11 post-secondary schools in Canada.
“That education program was the place that we needed to start,” said Courtemanche, explaining the emphasis Procore places on outreach to schools and young people. “We go all the way down into the elementary schools.”
Procore president-chief culture officer Steve Zahm explained Procore started off with a variety of software offerings but now promotes its comprehensive platform that’s a hub for owners, general contractors and other project collaborators across a project lifecycle. Twenty-four Canadian organizations are tapping into the Procore App Marketplace, he said.
But Procore’s session at George Brown College was not without its reality checks.
During an hour-long session, Courtemanche and colleagues heard from three George Brown professors and administrators, three students and one recent grad.
Arjun Pandey, professor at the school of construction management, described how he incorporates the Procore platform into lessons on RFIs, change orders and submittals and praised Procore’s Vortex Project, which is a collection of educational resources. But Peter Tumidajski, chair of the Angelo DelZotto School of Construction Management, said his first-year students don’t use Procore software much.
“I think the industry is moving faster on the changing software and what they want to use,” Tumidajski said. “We’re a little bit behind because we want to make sure they understand the fundamentals first and then the software comes later.
“There’s a whole bunch of other software. So I’m looking forward to understanding what software like Procore does.”
One student speaking at the session said he was keen to start his next work session using the Procore platform because it would help organize various tasks he would have to perform.
“The idea that I can walk around the site with a phone in hand, take the photo, send it off, mark it up, it’s a huge weight off my shoulders,” he said.
Another student added, “When I saw this program here, I was like, ‘wow, this will change the game because you can be on any floor, I have my phone and pull it up. I can see the drawing, I can see what’s wrong with it.’”
A third student, however, said he found the platform had too many redundancies, too many boxes that were “empty.”
Courtemanche said he appreciated the feedback and attributed the issue to software designers continually adding features but not eliminating old ones.
Procore heard from George Brown grad Nicholas Rego, now a project co-ordinator at Aspen Ridge Homes, that there were “gaps” in the workforce where workers had different depths of knowledge on software.
Courtemanche suggested the solution would be for software designers to make the main platform more accessible to all workers so it could be easily handed off.
In the end, said the CEO, the whole construction sector will benefit from having a technologically savvy workforce.
“What I want you to do is to educate and train the future workforce of construction workers,” he told the George Brown leaders. “We want to just be a good partner for you all and learn how we can be a better partner.”
Courtemanche said Procore is in 98 per cent of the accredited university construction management programs in the U.S.
“You can’t graduate in the United States from a construction management program without being trained in Procore,” he said. “Our goal is to be able to do that in every country.”
Courtemanche asked the George Brown leaders how Procore could further assist the college and Tumidajski listed sponsorship of contests and scholarships, paying for an endowed chair and supporting internships and co-op opportunities.
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