Careers in Construction: Scheduling

To conclude Careers in Construction Month, we’ll learn about a team that is essential in ushering a project from preconstruction through execution in the field – the scheduling department.

What do Schedulers do?

IMG_1393Schedulers are involved in the entire lifecycle of a project. In the proposal phase, they create an initial schedule for the project. Once the job is awarded, they develop, monitor and analyze the schedule from preconstruction through the completion of the project. Schedulers also prepare accurate and flexible project planning documents which highlight critical areas and risks.

Creating and maintaining a schedule is both science and art. The “how” – using the scheduling tool - is the simplest part of schedule creation and maintenance. The “why” - setting up the schedule to maximize usage and flexibility - requires experience to make appropriate determinations and is a more challenging skill to develop. Understanding the “what” – construction means and methods – is a skill that is honed throughout an entire career.

In order to be most effective, schedulers need exceptional interpersonal skills in addition to technical expertise. When project team members are busy gearing up to start a job, schedulers need to build excitement and urgency in order to get the project team to think and talk through the plan before work in the field begins. Schedulers interview key project team members to develop and shape the plan, and they also facilitate discussion and analysis of the plan to integrate the thoughts and concerns of stakeholders into the schedule. Throughout the project, the scheduler works with the project manager to analyze the schedule and make adjustments as needed to maximize success in the field. Knowledge of how to build a project is essential to a scheduler’s success, yet strong communication skills are required to extract maximize efficacy from the schedule.

Building a Career in Scheduling 

Schedulers come to the role with different backgrounds, IMG_1384but most schedulers have a degree in Civil Engineering, Construction Management or a related field. Experience with different construction markets, exposure to construction logistics, techniques, materials and equipment, and an understanding of scheduling software (particularly Primavera P6) are essential to working in this field.

Beyond formal training, there are many other skills that are important for this role. Project managers and superintendents often balance a large workload, so it’s up to the scheduler to find a way to get their input and buy-in on the schedule, even if it’s not at the top of their priority list.

Schedulers also need to have strong analytical abilities and a technical background, allowing them to understand drawings and learn on the fly. It’s also important that schedulers maintain a big-picture view of the project while simultaneously focusing on the thousands of little details that form the schedule. A big-picture view is essential for understanding the relationships between various portions of the project, and the scheduler must relate that big-picture view to the details that make up the itty bitty building blocks of the schedule. They also need to be able to visualize the project in different stages in order to forecast potential risks and opportunities.

IMG_1405While working as a scheduler demands a varied skill set, there are many benefits to choosing this challenging career path. Life as a scheduler is never boring because schedulers get to participate in a variety of different projects in numerous market segments, allowing them to constantly switch gears to address a variety of challenges. Due to the variety of projects schedulers work on and the ever-changing nature of construction, schedulers are constantly learning about unique situations and new means and methods. They are also constantly teaching and honing their own skills in scheduling analysis and communication through their interactions with project teams. There are opportunities for schedulers in the field and in the office, appealing to different personalities. Finally, because of a scheduler’s involvement with a project from start to finish, they are in the unique position to help build the plan on paper and see it all the way through completion in the field.

Careers in Construction: Safety

Continuing with our Careers in Construction series, this week we’re taking a look at the professionals who ensure construction on Alberici’s jobsites is completed safely.

What do Safety Professionals do?

Seabrook_0495Alberici’s goal for safety is simple: execute our work in the safest means possible to achieve Zero Incidents on all of our projects. Our team of safety professionals leads Alberici in meeting our safety goals.

Before work begins on a project site, Alberici’s safety professionals develop a site-specific safety plan incorporating Alberici’s SafeRing program, Owner requirements and the specific needs and challenges of the project. Once a project begins, safety professionals take an active role in the field by conducting site safety orientations and safety audits and by observing work in the field to determine if it is being executed according to the safety plan. Construction sites are always changing; work progress may create a hazard in an area that was safe the day before. Safety professionals must adapt to this dynamic environment, constantly evaluating the jobsite for potential hazards.

Safety professionals work with project managers, superintendents, field workers and subcontractors to address safety concerns and to develop best practices to keep everyone on the project site safe. Building relationships is an important part of a safety professional’s job, as conducting effective training and coaching is essential to success in this role.

Building a Career in Safety

Many safety professionals enter the field with a degree in Health & Safety, Engineering or Construction Management. Some also come to the role with experience in the field. Specialized training including Construction Health Safety Technician (CHST), Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and First Aid/CPR certification are important for a safety professional as well.Asbury_Louis_Mitchell_0087

Beyond formal training, safety professionals need to think critically, communicate effectively and have passion for safety. Critical thinking is required to creatively and constructively address safety concerns as well as to analyze and interpret data. Effective communication is essential when developing site-specific safety plans and when communicating with project team members in the field. Passion for safety is vital because safety professionals need to stay on top of constantly evolving procedures, regulations and best practices. Most importantly, this role requires unwavering commitment to the highest safety standards.

When asked about his role as Safety Manager, Kyle Pfundt explained, "there's no other position where communication is this important.  I can talk with a tradesperson about keeping his/her body out of the line of fire, then head to the client or project manager to talk about metrics or technical aspects on something very specific.  If I can't talk to all of the people up and down the chain effectively, I will struggle with the common goal:  working safely with zero Injures.  Safety is people oriented.  If I can’t effectively reach a large audience and be persuasive, the safety on a project can suffer."

Careers in Construction: Estimating

For our second installment for our Careers in Construction Month series, we’ll learn about the folks who determine the cost of our projects before they’re built – estimators.

What do estimators do?

Estimators help Alberici acquire work, and they assist our clients by providing accurate cost estimates before work begins. On hard bid projects, they put together Alberici’s bid for the work; typically, the lowest bidder is awarded the job. On design-build or construction management projects, estimators collaborate with designers to determine project costs and provide estimates to our clients.

Regardless of the type of project, estimators review drawings and specifications in order to quantify building components, and then they price those components accordingly. Sometimes estimators independently perform an estimate using cost data from previous similar projects. Other times, estimators collect quotes from subcontractors and suppliers. Estimators also work to develop and maintain essential relationships with subcontractors.

Estimators can specialize in different Alberici markets, geographic areas, or components of construction (such as concrete, mechanical/electrical/plumbing, or steel). At Alberici, our estimating teams are built to allow each estimator to play to his/her strengths in order to provide the greatest impact to the estimate.

Estimators play an essential role to the operation of the company, and work collaboratively with other departments in order to maximize their performance. For example, estimators work with Alberici’s warehouse to acquire rental rates and equipment availability. They work with the finance department on the allocation of money within an estimate. Estimators also work with legal to review contracts before bidding a job and risk management to review potential subcontractors and suppliers. They collaborate with operations personnel prior to the start of construction to assure a seamless handoff and transfer of knowledge from the estimate and preconstruction to construction activities in the field.

Building a Career in Estimating

IMG_1373Estimators come to the role with myriad backgrounds. Entry level estimators often have a degree in Construction Management, Civil Engineering, Architecture or a related field. Professionals with experience in the project management in the field can also successfully transition to a role as an estimator.

Beyond formal training, estimators need to be persistent and inquisitive. Persistence in essential because the statistical probability of losing is almost always greater than that of winning; in other words, you lose more jobs than you win. It takes a persistent person to bounce back after losing a bid, ready for the next pursuit. Being inquisitive is important because even when a bid is successful, estimators constantly try to replicate best practices and seek opportunities for improvement.


Anniversary Spotlight-Jessie Jiang

Jessie Jiang, Accounts Payable Specialist at Alberici’s office in Burlington, Ontario, is celebrating 10 years at Alberici this month. In honor of this milestone, we asked her to share some thoughts about her time at Alberici.

IMG_2429What do you enjoy most about your role as an A/P Specialist?

I enjoy processing payments for suppliers and employee expense reimbursements as quickly as I can to make them happy and satisfied. A satisfied vendor is important for Alberici’s reputation and to ensure we are able to make future purchases.  I also enjoy meeting deadlines to finish financial reports for month end, problem-solving, brain storming with my supervisor and negotiating with vendors.

Describe the path that brought you to your current role.

I started as a payroll clerk with Alberici as a co-op student when I studied at Mohawk College in 2004.  I was fortunate to have the opportunity to obtain a position as an Accounts Payable Clerk when I graduated in 2005.

What do you like most about working in the construction industry?

As we like to say around here, “We Build Ontario.”  A busy construction industry helps to keep the economy strong and Canadians working!  I like the variety of interesting work Alberici performs and appreciate the encouragement and opportunities we have to visit our jobsites.  I was so proud to visit the Toronto Airport site last month to observe part of the installation of the new luggage conveyor system.

What are you most proud of in your time at Alberici and why?

The company culture and family atmosphere have affected me in a very positive way.  I am most proud of working for a company that provides the opportunity to learn and grow.  Over the past ten years many changes have occurred, and I am proud of my confidence and ability to face new challenges and acquire the skills necessary to succeed.  It seems that I learn something new every day.

If you were an office supply, what would you be and why?

I would like to be a computer.  Computers are always changing and evolving to become better, faster and more efficient.  Plus, they are capable of storing and maintaining much more knowledge and information than the human brain ever can!

Careers in Construction: BIM and VDC

Throughout the month of October, which is Careers in Construction Month, we’ll be exploring a number of different construction career paths at Alberici. To kick off the series, we’ll be taking a look at working in BIM and VDC.

Not all construction work occurs on the jobsite. Alberici’s BIM and VDC experts work to “build” the project virtually to prevent future issues in the field.

What are BIM and VDC?

BIM, or Building Information Modeling, is a process that involves the creation and management of a digital representation of a facility. BIM representations are 3D and can also incorporate time as a 4th dimension and cost as a 5th dimension. Creating a BIM representation is highly collaborative and requires involvement from multiple stakeholders including architects, engineers and specialty subcontractors. Once a BIM model is created, it can be used to view a project from different angles, to detect design clashes (for example pipes running into ductwork), to verify if work in the field has been installed as designed and as a communication tool for the construction team.

VDC, or Virtual Design and Construction, describes the work that can be done using the models created through BIM.

Hillman Hall BIM

What do Virtual Construction Professionals do?

ClashAt Alberici, Virtual Construction professionals combine BIM models created by architects, engineers and subcontractors to create a complete, fully coordinated BIM representation. Using the comprehensive model, Virtual Construction professionals are able to identify clashes in design as well as identify constructability issues. In the field, superintendents and Project Managers use the model to plan and discuss the work and to verify that work is installed as designed.

Alberici’s Virtual Construction professionals also work with the estimating and marketing teams. When Alberici is pursuing work, BIM can be used to show an owner what a new facility would look like. Estimators can pull quantities from a model, a quicker and sometimes more accurate approach to completing an estimate.

Building a Career in VDC

BIM PyramaxThere are many different pathways to a career in Virtual Design and Construction, including an increasing number of university programs. Many universities offer courses in the management and use of BIM; some even offer degrees specializing in Virtual Design and Construction within a Construction Management or Engineering program.

Many Virtual Design and Construction professionals come to the field from an architectural, engineering or construction management background, and further their knowledge with continuing education focused on BIM. The Associated General Contractors (AGC) offers a credential for BIM, and several Alberici employees have earned this CM-BIM credential.

Formalized training can lay a solid groundwork for a career in Virtual Design and Construction, but it cannot replace hands-on experience. Managing the process and understanding the intricacies with various software, ensuring all models are coordinated, and managing various competency levels of those working in the model can really only be mastered in the field.

In addition to formal training and hands-on experience, a focus on technology, attention to detail and management capabilities are all essential to success in this field.

As Alberici’s Director of Project Controls and Virtual Construction Brooks Williams explains, working in Virtual Construction is a satisfying because like construction, it “offers fresh challenges, and figuring out how to leverage technology allows us to build better projects.”