AEC Conversations: Filling in new graduate potholes

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As a BIM Manager in the AEC industry. I have attended many conferences over the years. My feeling that new college graduates are coming out ill-prepared for the AEC job world has come up numerous times. I sat in sessions where the topic came up but was passed over due to time constraints.  I hear about this topic from colleagues and read about it online.  


In my role as a BIM Manager in the AEC industry, I have a few Observations:

  • I live in a state where the University’s Architectural program is highly design focused and pushes Design software.  Graduates can use the design software but have no knowledge of how a document set goes together.
  • I hear stories from colleagues of new graduates starting at their firms with no knowledge of AutoCAD and/or Revit. 
  • If recent graduates can’t use the software to create the document set nor even know how to put a set together then Design is no good.  The best designers I have worked with had that knowledge.  Don’t get me wrong Design is highly important.


Knowledge of the software the industry uses for day-to-day work is highly important. I attended a small liberal arts college where those going into the Architectural field were taught about how to put a set of drawings together and even had a contractor review, redline, and provide feedback on our sets.  We could not even touch AutoCAD (yes, I have been around so long I predate Revit usage) you had to have a semester of hand drafting.  The skills I learned in hand drafting are just as important in drafting on the computer. Is hand drafting even taught anymore? 


What should the GOAL be:

  • New graduates need to be able to create document sets and use the industry software(s) upon graduation.
  • From the number of conversations at conferences and online that I have seen this continues to not be the case.  


These conversations have led me to think about my past experiences. 

Here are some of my observations:

  • Revit is a tool for modeling and document creation.  It is not an easy tool to learn but there are great online classes out there to can help you.
  • I have spent hours/days/weeks of time teaching new graduates Revit and what you should and shouldn’t document.  Technically that was part of my job, but I wonder if it was the best use of my time.  As it was encountered more and more, I saw a trend of sending the new hire away for formal training which was only on the Revit extent.
  • To me personally, that felt like lots of time wasted on something that should have been done in school.  Lots of Community colleges offer classes in Revit why can’t colleges and universities?
    • Is it a lack of knowledge of the software?
    • What are the reasons it isn’t taught?
      • Take too long to teach?
      • Is it viewed as having to add a year to your schooling?
      • Would students be willing to pay university rates for community college content?
    • Or even the documentation creation process?
    • Do schools feel it is the business’s responsibility to train?
  • Maybe some colleges and universities do teach Revit, but I haven’t had the benefit of working with graduates from them.


For me, having been taught the design, software, and documentation creation process at a small liberal arts college made the transition to a professional easy. I never felt like I was lacking or behind the preverbal 8-Ball.  Rather than teaching new graduates, I find myself being a counselor, having to build up the user’s mental state, helping them to understand that they aren’t behind the 8-Ball and that they will eventually understand the software and the documentation process.  Is it really my responsibility to do that? To make them not feel that they had inadequate schooling.

  • How are firms dealing with this?
  • Is there a way to fix this at the college/university level?  How much time and effort does it take to fix this after they get into the workforce?
  • Is the desire for high-end cutting-edge design overriding the necessity of knowing how to create a buildable design?
    • Create a set of drawings? 
    • Is design more important than knowing how to create a document set? 


A group of my colleagues and I have decided to wade into the deep end of this conversation and over a series of blog posts will discuss experiences, ideas, and thoughts.  These will be our opinions and thus should be viewed as one series of thoughts and discussions, not the end all be all.  Come join us on a journey through an enlightening series as we share our experiences, insights, and lessons learned, fostering a community of knowledge and inspiration for the next generation of designers.