First steps to highlight zero error benefits to student engineers30 Nov 21
Carbon reduction and improved sustainability can be an added benefit of getting it right first time, GIRI executive director Cliff Smith told delegates at the annual conference of the Association of Civil Engineering Departments in November. The event was focused on sustainability and how it can be given more prominence in civil engineering courses.
Cliff was asked to share an industry perspective on the teaching of sustainability in academic courses. He discussed the origins of GIRI and the research that underpins it, and explained how the initial focus on the productivity benefits of error reduction has widened over recent years to encompass other benefits such as reduced waste and improved sustainability.
The two-day conference saw a programme of speakers from organisations including the Institution of Structural Engineers, Anglian Water, the Royal Corps of Engineers, and Amey, addressing the headline topic from different angles. Alongside the speaker programme were workshops in which participants debated critical issues such as the desired attributes for civil engineering graduates and the content of courses.
There was also discussion of the barriers that prevent changes both to content and to the way that courses are taught. Academics acknowledge that universities have to both balance the content with the accreditation requirements, and provide course content that is attractive to students, while also meeting the needs of industry.
Crina Oltean Dumbrava, from the accreditation agency Joint Board of Moderators, reported on a survey that invited young people to state their priorities, and also say what they would like courses to offer. The results showed how important sustainability can be for attracting students.
“It was clear from this survey that university students want subjects that enable them to have an impact in their careers,” says Cliff. “Civil engineering can and should be the first port of call for those who want to positively impact the environment because construction and infrastructure have such a huge carbon footprint.”
Another key takeaway from the event was the increasing focus on adaptive skills, communication, and collaboration – things that have not traditionally been considered as core to civil engineering courses. “When students come out of university, they need to be able to communicate what they have learned,” says Cliff. “GIRI has developed this type of training, and can teach the skills that graduates will need if they are to influence clients and persuade people to listen to their ideas. Potentially some elements of GIRI training could be developed into course modules, because they teach exactly the type of soft skills that graduates need.”
More information about GIRI training.
Sign up to our newsletter.