Engaging the Future Leaders of the Industry

Many future leaders of the construction industry are currently being trained in university construction management, engineering, and architecture programs across the country. This presents an exceptional opportunity to expose these future leaders to lean principles alongside the traditional topics being taught in the standard curriculum. By getting students to engage in lean thinking during their formative years, they will begin their careers with the mindset that reducing waste and improving processes is a normal and integral part of the design and construction industry.

While there are some academics who formally teach lean principles, most college courses still prepare graduates to function within the present system and do not inspire students to become agents of change. This is where industry can have an impact. As a lean practitioner, you can form relationships with academics and academic programs that can have lasting effects. It can be as simple as giving a guest lecture, or as elaborate as starting and supporting a student community of practice (SCoP).

As an example, members of the Arizona LCI Community of Practice (AZCoP) have helped faculty implement pull-planning exercises in scheduling classes at Northern Arizona University (NAU) for many years. In 2013, LCI members assisted in developing a course focused on collaborative and integrated project delivery which led to extra-curricular sessions on lean principles for faculty and students. Due to the strong positive response, NAU proposed creating a student organization devoted to lean thinking and, in conjunction with the AZCoP, received approval from LCI to pilot a student community of practice. This student community has the mission to promote learning and to provide an opportunity for students to implement lean principles on real projects. The students select small projects, such as using a gemba walk to identify waste in the construction teaching lab and to inform suggestions for its improvement. Small-scale projects such as this give the students the experience of seeing lean processes applied from start to finish. Students are also welcomed to the monthly AZCoP meetings, stimulating further learning and professional networking.

This could not have been possible without the continuing support of the AZCoP and its individual members who devote time and expertise to the SCoP and Construction Management program at NAU. If you are passionate about helping engage the future leaders of the industry, I challenge you to reach out to your local university and offer to assist both faculty and students on their own lean journeys. For suggestions on how to engage faculty members or for starting a SCoP, please contact me or leave a comment below.

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