Surprisingly enough, one of the most difficult parts of The Construction Institute of Canada (TCIC) Simulated Student Bid Competition, which gives students real world industry experience, can be finding an industry mentor.
“It’s probably the hardest for students to go out and put themselves out and find a mentor, unless they have a parent in the industry or have worked in a construction company before,” said Jonathan Matthews, executive director 2014 TCIC Student Bid Competition and a member of the 2013 winning team.
“A school project doesn’t typically force someone to go out there...that’s what’s so unique about this competition.”
The competition works with mentors who have previously competed in the competition or volunteers from local construction associations. Bid competition mentors will help the students schedule their tasks and provide advice to the participants who are getting their first real world experience in the construction bidding and estimating process. The bids must contain quantity take offs for own forces work, a sub-trade analysis and selection, as well as an overhead and pricing summary.
“Participants get to estimate a real world building, real world drawings, that’s an experience not many people get. It’s a learning environment,” said Matthews.
Dealing with a mentor through the competition gives students an outlet they would not normally have.
“The students in these competitions learn a lot. They will realize that they can do it, that they can speak to people and that they can network,” said Matthews.
It is beneficial if the mentor has estimating experience, though any construction professional is welcome to be a mentor.
This year, the competition is creating an esteemed mentor position to recognize exceptional mentors.
“The esteemed mentor is the one that goes above and beyond the call,” explained Toronto Construction Association executive vice-president Kim McKinney, adding that there will be one from each participating local construction association.
“This will really help engage the local associations and it reinforces their relationship with their local schools.”
A fourth-year student at George Brown College, Matthews is writing a thesis about mentorship experiences and the human resources aspect of mentorship.
In his interview and surveys he found that the majority of mentors learn more about their own jobs through their mentoring experience.
When asked about when they are a teacher if they understand the materials better, 26 per cent of respondents said they had gained a couple of more insights about the materials and 64 per cent gained a “much better outlook and understanding” of the material.
Respondents also said mentoring helps improve communication and enables a connection with a younger generation.
“There are a number of companies that really look into it and study and employ it, but there’s a huge gap in the rest of the industry,” said Matthews.
“Even just being able to go to your boss and sit down for casual conversation to ask about lessons learned is a huge benefit for a younger individual and it also helps the boss to get to know their staff...issues are better recognized in those scenarios rather than an official meeting.”
For the first time, this year’s competition will have a two-stage bid submission. On the first day submissions will be filed electronically and then 24 hours later the hard copy will be submitted to the local construction association. The competition will use Infinite Source as the e-bidding platform.
“It gets the kids exposed to where the industry is going. It’s not the old way of submitting an envelope,” said McKinney.
It was important for McKinney to get e-bidding involved in this year’s competition.
“It’s a good way to get the industry to move and the students that are good with the e-bidding...can lead the charge.”
This year’s bid competition is aiming to be truly national with the first-time inclusion of teams from the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology and Nova Scotia Community College.
For more information on becoming a mentor, visit http://tcicbidcomp.com/info.html.
Follow Kelly Lapointe on Twitter @DCNKelly.