While Australia has been a pioneering adopter of BIM in certain key areas, some experts contend that greater effort is needed to maintain and upgrade skill levels across the engineering and construction sectors as whole.
According to Christopher Byrne, a teacher at the Swinburne University of Technology, BIM expertise continues to remain highly inconsistent amongst engineers and building sector professionals within Australia.
“The skill level of people in our industry varies widely – from people who are proficient in their field and able to implement BIM management plans, to those who ask us ‘what is this BIM thing?’” said Byrne. “And even when we see great examples of people working with BIM, it is generally a pocket within the organisation rather than the whole supply chain.”
According to Byrne, a number of training and education options are already on the market that cater to both clients and members of industry across a range of expertise levels in order to either build skills or remedy knowledge deficits.
These training options vary tremendously, however, in depth, quality and cost, with many courses failing to address the full potential of available tools.
“The problem is that there are some courses out there that are only meeting minor industry needs,” said Byrne. “We’ve seen vocational courses of competency pop up across the state, where they just put an arbitrary figure up there and get people to come along in order to teach them BIM.
“From our research we’ve noticed that they’re really about BIM from just a design perspective, so not really about BIM itself.”
In terms of a BIM primer for novices, Byrne points to the benefits of more informative and comparatively inexpensive one-day sessions that can clear up misconceptions on the technology and provide people with a better idea of its potential capabilities.
“We’re finding there a lot of misinformation out there on BIM and much training and information appears to silo-driven– so BIM from just an engineering or design point of view,” he said. “Most people still think BIM is just 3D modelling with clash detection.”
“We’re running some information sessions and one day workshops on exactly what BIM is and how it relates to them – so taking it back one step.”
Byrne points to the utility of having two different sets of such courses – one for industry, for which the price is around several hundred dollars per head, and another for potential BIM clients, which is provided free of charge.
“Being a university, we want to educate the first port of call, which is the client – helping them understand what BIM is and why they might need it,” he said. “We don’t charge for these because they’re more about raising awareness of BIM potential.”
At the more sophisticated end, BIM education in Australia encompasses project simulations for advanced professionals and training within tertiary curricula.
“You also have some more expensive courses that are three day virtual projects courses that are multi-disciplinary – so they could be anywhere from fifteen hundred dollars to two and a half grand,” said Byrne.
“They’re quite detailed and in-depth – they take somebody through their component of a BIM project working in collaboration with the other disciplines – the architects, engineers and construction professionals in the room.”
In addition to standalone one-off training sessions, university institutions are also beginning to include BIM in their established curricula.
“You also have BIM training in the form of course units within a degree that link in with architecture, engineering, and would be charged as such,” Byrne said.
While there is still no nationwide government funded platform for BIM training, Byrne nonetheless feels that existing measures instituted by the education sector are more than sufficient.
“Current training platforms should definitely be capable of satisfying the future BIM needs of industry,” he said. “We’re definitely on the right track for what a BIM standard of education should be.”