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Low Man on the Totem Pole
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4 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I've been lurking on the forums for quite awhile and decided to sign up to possibly get an answer to a question. I'm a construction management major looking to graduate next year and I have a concern. I don't have any "on site" experience to go along with my degree and wanted to see if you all think it would be necessary.

I've worked full time throughout college as an assistant project manager at an architecture firm and a project engineer on the client side of construction, but never for an actual construction company. My one year internship is ending soon and I am considering getting a job as a laborer to "learn the ropes" and get some hands-on experience, or continuing on with the pencil pushing jobs.

Any thoughts as to which route would help me be a better manager down the road?
 

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"Pro"
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628 Posts
On site experience should be mandatory. I really never liked the idea of someone with a college degree managing workers and projects if they don't know how to swing a hammer or have never really done manual labor before. Not aiming that towards you, just there's a lot of people in my degree field who have never actually worked construction and don't think it's necessary...That thinking = BS

I've learned a lot in school so far, however I've learned a lot more working in the field.
 

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Finishing Carpenter
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1,332 Posts
I think you have the right idea, going out as a labourer to get some experience. What's valuable is learning how to think about solving on site practical problems - and this you learn from the guys there. Watch what's going on, and how things are done. Ask questions (intelligent)

Its one thing to say that a beam needs to be installed, so big, so long etc. It's something else to know how to approach the intallation (could be several ways) safely, and cost effectively.

If you want to get noticed, show up on time, keep a good attitude, bust your a#$. let someone know that you want to be on the tools at some point!

good luck.

Laurie.


www.lauriescustomfinishing.ca
 

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Low Man on the Totem Pole
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4 Posts
Discussion Starter · #4 ·
...I really never liked the idea of someone with a college degree managing workers and projects if they don't know how to swing a hammer or have never really done manual labor before.
I've also found that I get treated differently when guys find out that I have never been in their shoes.
 

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topsail's trimcat
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5,026 Posts
i agree with teh idea of management personal coming from the field. i worked for a large commercial company where the estimators were merely pencil pushers, and same goes for some of the project managers, they had absurd ideas as to how little the amount of material is required because they dont allow for waste or extra needed for shoring. and the pm's dont understand seeing unforesceen things and dealing with weather.

myself i am a licensed carpenter and have thought of taking the construction administration program. i know a few people who have taken it and its a good program but the majority of the people who are in have come from university and have no practical experience with the construction industry. personally i think it would be quite fun to walk into the classroom where building code is being discussed and have the instructor ask questions which the fellow classmates have to look up teh code and figure out what exactly is being stated and i can simply blurt it out and how what being discussed does or doesnt not work in regards to the code.

basically the best guys ive worked under are those who grew up in the trade coming from familys of trademen. not pencil pushers who think they know what there talking about because the vehicle they drive
 

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"Pro"
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628 Posts
It's good that you're thinking about working as a laborer. A lot of people I know aren't in construction because they like the industry or because they like building things, they're in it just because they think as a CM they can make a lot of money or that they'll always have job security. A lot of them just don't care about "learning the ropes" as you said. They're also having a very hard time finding Co-Ops now as everything is so competitive.
 

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Low Man on the Totem Pole
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4 Posts
Discussion Starter · #7 ·
...they're in it just because they think as a CM they can make a lot of money or that they'll always have job security. A lot of them just don't care about "learning the ropes" as you said. They're also having a very hard time finding Co-Ops now as everything is so competitive.
Most of the PM's and Estimators that bid projects to do work for my company are all scraping for jobs right now. My program at school doesn't have enough students to pay the professors because everyone is afraid of going into construction. If I was going into this industry because I wanted to make a lot of money or for the job security, then I must be literally crazy. Don't tell my wife though. :eek:
 

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Project Superintendent
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2,525 Posts
Any thoughts as to which route would help me be a better manager down the road?
You will get a lot of answers saying that you have no business managing projects from your office without knowing anything about the field. I totally agree. You need to get out there and bust your a**, for at least a couple of years.

I also will tell you that most of the guys in field don't have a clue what goes on in the office and what a project manager deals with on a daily basis. As someone who bounces back and forth between field and office I feel I am qualified to comment on this.

Most field guys don't know how to buy out a job, set up a CPM schedule that makes sense and is realistic, put together a monthly billing, write po's and contracts, deal with owners/ architects and engineers with due respect, write a delay letter that will hold up in court, on and on and on. These are things that you learn the basics of in school, and you get good at by working in ...the office, not in the field.
 

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General Contractor
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3,444 Posts
I agree completely that field experience will make you better at understanding what really goes on.

Unfortunately, as proven by all the people you see in every office of every major construction company, it is the sheepskin that gets you hired.

And it is the guy with more 'qualifying' alphabet behind his name that will be offered a position before you will.

It's a catch 22. You cannot get the good jobs without being a college boy. And the field men will look down on you for the same reason. I guess it comes down to a personal thing. What do you desire more... knowing or earning?

Yes, this is a sad state of affairs. But it rings true everywhere. All you have to do is look at the office staff when you walk in. Very few have ever had much, if any, field experience. Yet they are the ones drawing the paychecks.
 

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Banned
Joined
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215 Posts
Hee hee we are exact opposites,

I've got tons o' hands on Blood sweat and tears... and no High school diploma!

when I looked online recently for maybe going to work for some body, all the jobs I wanted required a degree!



can't please them all.
 

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Bird Killer
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189 Posts
It would be difficult to overstate how much contempt I have for you.
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Really? Because I have lots of respect for him trying to learn.

And as has been stated, some hands on would be an asset for you. In terms of marketability to employers, and in dealing with the people you will deal with once you get the job. In the office and in the field...
 

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"Pro"
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628 Posts
It would be difficult to overstate how much contempt I have for you.
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The people I have contempt for are the ones who don't want to learn and get on site experience because they think it's pointless. On site experience is not pointless. The OP is already willing to learn and is starting to see that it's necessary. So why would you give him flak?
 

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Registered
Joined
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254 Posts
Many colleges have jumped on the bandwagon and are offering "construction management" courses and degrees. The notion that someone who has never spent one minute in construction will soon be telling sub contractors how to perform their jobs is quite frustrating. Recently I was criticized by one of these darlings for improperly strapping my conduit runs, I had to point out that the runs in question were actually plumbing. This cherub faced little dandy held up my check for a week due to his incompetence.

What's next, a degree in "Flight Management"? Graduates could sit in the cockpit of Boeing 737's and manage the pilots throughout the flight.

Colleges crank out these "construction managers" and they add a layer of stupid to an industry that is already populated with people who feel that learning a trade is not a prerequisite to a career in this industry.

If you ask me (and most folks do), construction managers should have experience in, you know, construction.

Perhaps I was too hard on the OP, and I apologize, it's not him in particular I have disdain for, it's this new trend of colleges luring the lazy into construction and telling them they can "run the show" and start right at the top without ever paying their dues in this industry.

I see this a lot. People in construction who have never worked a day in their lives. Designers, managers, decorators, consultants, the list goes on and on. These people are blissfully unaware of their incompetence and the problems they cause for others.

You guys know exactly what I'm talking about because I've read it here on this forum for years, the current generation and their sense of entitlement, their unwillingness to pay their dues and get dirty. Their desire to start out in management and rake in the dollars.

We've all seen this coming and now the "Gen X Slacker Generation" is graduating from their construction management programs and the construction industry will soon benefit from their remarkable insights...

Reason #42 why the construction industry is going downhill.
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Nest Home Improvement
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890 Posts
I have a friend that got a similar degree in Construction Management. He had no problem getting his first job as an assistant project superintendent in commercial construction with a large company right after graduating. This was of course several years ago without the current real estate problems we have currently.

He was lucky and had a good mentor that trained him OTJ. One of the things he has said was most difficult of all the trades to understand is carpentry. He had a good trainer and was able to learn and grow. But he really wanted to learn and know every thing he could about construction so he read and was on site and talking and learning from all the subs.

He got promoted and is now a project superintendent and has worked for a few other companies and I believe he does quite well.

My advice, learn as much as you can, from anyone that is willing to teach you. It will only benefit you in the long run.
 

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Banned
Joined
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215 Posts
Administrative knowledge is just as important as hands on experience, I know plenty of project managers that work directly for the property owners that have never even wore a pair of boots and can give 99% of contractors a real run for their money. Course they have several years behind the desk, the Op is green and a pencil pusher ... so it's funny to 'hear' him squirm.

Hang in there BigB, I applaud your interest in learning the trade first hand, but despite what you hear here, you don't need to install something to understand how or why it's done ... with time you'll get the in's and out's, we all have advantages & disadvantages.
 

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my own boss
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102 Posts
i havent been on here for awhile and found this thread quite interesting.

i started out about 15 years ago as a laborer then apprentence to a framer concrete, siding and then a trim carpenter. ive had the pleasure from working for the best pm to the worst cm, sometimes for the same company. i for one applaud this (i assume) young man for asking the question.

ive worked for cm's that wouldnt pick your hammer up off the ground if you dropped it off a ten foot wall and ive worked for some that would show up on the job and push you away instead and show you how they wanted it done by doing it.

guess who was respected more on the jobsites.?

like the other guy, i was recently laid off. because every job i found that i was quailified for need a ba, i decided to finish my ba.

like the other guy, yes, these are canned schools, they only teach books, but i dont know if its dumbing down, but a tactic to pay someone out of college less than they would have if they promoted the super and trained him the ropes.

not the leave the others out, knowledge is really the key
 
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