The Construction Institute of Canada’s (TCIC) national Simulated Student Bid Competition goes beyond the classroom, giving students practical experience into the construction bidding process. This year’s competition will be no exception and is slated to be the biggest yet, says the event’s executive director.
"It continues to grow and hopefully we can get more colleges and universities involved," said Jonathan Kerr, who is also a fourth-year student in the Bachelor of Technology Construction Management program at George Brown College. "It's great exposure for the students but also companies that have been involved with sponsorship. The exposure they get and the learning benefit is by far the most rewarding part. The great part about it is how the industry and academia are working together to further enhance this competition."
The deadline for applications was Jan. 24 and this year a record nine schools will be participating from across Canada in 92 teams with over 350 students, the largest number to date.
Craig Lesurf, honorary chair of the simulated bid competition, has been involved for 10 years. Walsh Canada, where Lesurf serves as vice-president and business group leader, has sponsored the competition for the past five years.
"It helps students tackle the construction bidding and estimating process so they can understand what goes on in the real world of construction," explained Lesurf, who is also chairman of the Toronto Construction Association. "It allows them to adapt to different situations, it shows them what the industry is going to be like, helps them understand the rules of the game and gets them to showcase their talents.
"At the end of the process, no matter who works for who, it's all about a competition to bid and build a building. Everybody has to go out and win work and go through the process of how buildings are priced and built and this helps those students understand that."
The bid competition is facilitated by fourth-year students and managed by an executive team of 14 members. Third-year students participate in the contest, creating a fictional company and competing as estimating teams. Each team gets a mentor who is a member of the construction industry to help them through the process.
"It's an opportunity to get introduced to industry professionals and sometimes they end up with jobs at these same firms," Lesurf noted.
This year's feature project is a real mid-size office building that was recently built in Ontario, but the identity of it is being kept confidential.
"The building could be located anywhere in Canada but it can't be a massive project that overwhelms the team," explained Lesurf. "It's got to be something on a scale that is manageable in the time frame and the level of expertise for the students, which is pretty high, but it needs to reflect a real-life job."
Teams are also faced with compliancy problems and the technical and legal aspects they might encounter during a real-life bid process, said Lesurf.
"You have to have a bid that is compliant and you have to have a bid that is submitted on time and if you don't, you don't get considered for the project which is reflective of real life," he noted.
Awards include most outstanding professional conduct, most accurate and complete bid, closest to the target price and, introduced just last year, the Building Information Modeling (BIM) innovation award. Winners in these categories are presented with monetary awards and plaques.
"It's a great thing for students to put on their resumes and a lot of them are being asked about it when they go for job interviews because employers are familiar with the competition," said Kerr, whose team participated in the competition last year and won the BIM award. "Students who do compete in it get the actual exposure that the industry would want from hiring graduates. It gives them that edge and understanding of what it actually takes to submit a bid."
The organizing committee has also incorporated some new elements this year.
"We're trying to increase the amount of deliverables, reduce some of the quantity takeoffs and increase some of the subcontractor analysis that they have to do," explained Kerr. "They'll also have to create a site mobilization plan, a quality management document and a LEED document."
While many students who participate are from the Toronto area, Lesurf said the competition has a national presence and organizers would like to branch out further and reach more participants across Canada. They are also looking for volunteers within the construction industry to assist with facilitating the competition.
"It's not just a regional thing, it's about everybody from across Canada joining and learning and benefiting from sharing knowledge and competing," said Lesurf.
This year's awards gala will be held April 11, with the location to be determined.
"We invite mentors and sponsors to the event to interact with participants," said Lesurf, adding all teams from across Canada are encouraged to attend. "The awards presentation is just like a traditional industry networking event. It connects potential employers with potential employees."