How to Develop the Next Generation of Preconstruction Professionals

Architectural, Construction Management, and Engineering students don’t want to be estimators.

Taimoor Khan, Vice President of Preconstruction at Satterfield & Pontikes and Adjunct Professor at the University of Houston both has his finger directly on the pulse of the attitudes of graduates entering the construction industry. He knows because of experience and from hearing direct from the horse’s mouth that preconstruction isn’t attractive to the younger generation.

Why?

Because we just can’t seem to shake the preconceived (and wrong) notion that preconstruction is boring, unchallenging, lonely, and that precon professionals and estimators don’t have an impact on the project and go without recognition or add value. If this were a job description, no one would apply.

However, those of us who work in precon know that’s absolutely not the case. We’re ‘project managers’ in our own right—the position that most graduates say they want—but in precon, you get to collaborate with designers and owners to solve problems and make really big project decisions. Precon professionals can make a HUGE impact on a job…now if only we could convey that to those entering the construction workforce.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the construction industry is facing “faster than average growth.” We will need about 10,000 more construction cost estimators by 2026 than we have now. 

Fortunately, precon processes are rapidly changing with more collaborative building methods, owner’s expectations of transparency, sustainable building methods, and the technology to back it all up. We just have to make sure we’re conveying it right.

At Precon World 2023, Taimoor presented this predicament we’re in and how to resolve it. With his nearly 20 years of experience in preconstruction and over 10 years of teaching, he knows what we need to do to make precon sexy to the younger generation.

Here are his four tips:

  1. Promote the impact on project success.
  2. Highlight team collaboration.
  3. Showcase work/life balance.
  4. Reframe job titles.

Developing Young Estimators Infographic (1)

For those who already have recent grads working in their company, it is the precon leaders’ responsibility to identify those who would make good precon team members. Then, build relationships with them. Provide them with a mentor from the precon team to show them the ropes. Train them in the innovative technology you use.

To learn more about hiring internally, click here

If you are looking for new hires, Taimoor suggests staying engaged with your local universities, colleges, and trade schools. Network with professors and find opportunities to expose EC students to the world of precon. He says what they are being taught is “outdated.” They need precon professionals currently working in precon to tell them “What it’s really like.”

To learn more about attracting talent to precon, read the following articles:

Promote the Impact on Project Success

Taimoor says we don’t want “accidental estimators.” We want people who have a passion for precon. Taimoor found his was by focusing on the creative aspect of estimating, how best to deliver information to owners and working with them to solve their problems and collaborating with the design team.

These are all rewarding parts of being an estimator.

Highlight Team CollaborationBeck Technology team members having fun at happy hour.

In school, students are taught logic and facts; yet most of our decisions are driven by our emotions. Taimoor says that teaching the younger generation soft skills and showing them how they are applied in preconstruction makes the role more attractive.

Commitment, follow-through, emotional intelligence, and solid communication skills are what separates good estimators from not-so-good estimators.

Showcase Work/Life Balance

When looking for a job, the company’s policy on work/life balance and flexibility is one of the most important aspects for younger people. Fidelity Investments found that 65% of young workers think that flexibility and remote work are “the most important non-financial benefit.”

To read more about the importance of maintaining a healthy work/life balance company culture, click here.

Attractive Job Titles

Taimoor suggests reframing the job title of “estimator.” Estimator doesn’t encompass everything a construction estimator does. He says list the job as “preconstruction engineer,” “cost analyst,” or “cost engineer.” These titles sound much more interesting than “estimator.”

To watch Taimoor’s entire Precon World session, click here.

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