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We Need an Influx at ASPE

by Cyndi Walker, American Society of Professional Estimators (ASPE), St. Louis Metro Chapter 19

When you were little, did you dream of being a cowboy, a doctor, an actress, a space man or – even more bizarre – a construction cost estimator? In my youth, nobody (most current estimators included) even knew of such a profession as “construction estimating.” Seems we all just stumbled into the job. Times have changed and stumbling into the profession is no longer an option.

The required skill sets and personal qualities needed to succeed in this profession have changed. Digital take-offs, ftp sites, uploads, downloads, BIM, sophisticated software programs, data bases — all are words unheard of when I began estimating. The days of looking at paper sets of plans with a measuring scale and a calculator are long gone. The future is here. The need for new blood is here, too.

How do we attract the younger generation to consider construction estimating as a career choice to prepare for instead of just blindly stumbling into it?

One reason – the potential for landing a job. Even though the economic downturn currently affects our industry, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook forecasts job growth for construction cost estimators at an increase of 36% by 2020 over the 2010 level.

Another reason – estimating is a “varied responsibilities” job that will keep a person interested for years. No project is ever the same. No construction team (architect, engineer, owner, subcontractors and suppliers) is ever the same. Collaborating with different groups of people to evaluate the costs and labor requirements of a particular project is stimulating.

The younger generation completely understands computers and all means of electronic gadgetry – the use of sophisticated software to calculate estimates is completely in their wheelhouse. But, in addition to relying on computers and technology, an estimator must have analytical, critical-thinking and communication skills to enable them to discuss complex design issues with a multitude of industry specialists, develop relationships with others in the industry, present and defend their estimates in a clear and concise way, help determine how to minimize cost without sacrificing the quality needed to meet the specifications and expectations for the project and develop scheduling for the duration of the project.

Most employers prefer college graduates. A bachelor’s degree in construction management is not the only degree that matters, though. Job applicants with degrees in accounting, mathematics and finance are also good candidates for estimating positions.

Back to the question – “How can you help get someone to consider estimating as a career?”

Meet with guidance counselors at high schools and colleges to ensure they understand all the job entails so they can advise their students.
1. Be a presence at “Job Fair” days at local schools.
2. Be a guest speaker at other organizations’ meetings.
3. Help tradesman who are interested in a career change learn how to be considered for the position.
4. Encourage your children, nieces, nephews and their friends to consider estimating.
I might not have dreamed of becoming an estimator, but I am very happy I have been one for many years. Help someone else realize the value of contributing to the industry of the building of buildings.

Join us at our next meeting at Ranken Technical College on March 22nd. Click here for more information.

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