What are the critical changes needed to the way we teach digital skills?

by Andrew Johnson | March 24, 2023 |  3 min read

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Continuing the digital skills topic in the BIM Academy Digital Climate Podcast, host Andrew Johnson invited Gerry Ruffles to talk about the critical changes we need to see in industry now in the way we teach digital construction skills.

Gerry is Head of Education for MOBIE – an initiative set up in 2017 by Architect and TV Presenter George Clarke, to inspire young people to revolutionise the way they think about homes and to define how they want to live now and in the future. Gerry is responsibility for the delivery of MOBIE’s range of Advanced Home Futures courses and training programmes. He joined MOBIE after twenty five years in Higher Education lecturing and running courses in Construction and Built Environment, Design and Architecture, with a passion to excite, motivate and prepare young people for careers in innovative home creation.

Gerry is perfectly positioned to talk about how to introduce digital skills to schools and universities, as for a number of years he has been a writer for Pearson contributing to their BTEC and HN Level 3 and 4 Construction and Built Environment programmes as well as the new MOBIE/Pearson Future Home Design and Construction HNC and HND courses which are running at in several universities throughout the UK.

In this podcast, Andrew asks Gerry to talk about the programmes and the challenges MOBIE runs and how they are currently working with young children in schools to encourage greater interest in STEM subjects and architecture in particular.

Gerry said that in the past five years they have been running design challenges, they have run 10 so far. The winners from one previous challenge were a group of 13 year olds from an all girls school in Nottingham – they had very little previous knowledge of the construction industry – but entering this challenge really triggered their interest, and now two of the group are studying MOBIE degree courses in architecture. It is success stories such as this that evidence the need to introduce the benefits, and indeed rewards,  of working within the construction industry. If we can inspire more young people to engage with construction, this is a means to bridging future skills gaps Gerry added.

During the podcast, Andrew and Gerry discuss how introducing digital working methods and practices to our young generations now will future proof construction for the next set of innovators and forward thinkers to create even further progressive technologies and have the ability to apply these tools. Businesses are in desperate need of workers skilled in this area, educators need to realise they have the ability to close the skills gap. It’s critical changes such as those that MOBIE are implementing that will bring about a digital education revolution in the UK.

The two discuss current barriers to this method of working, barriers in industry and from the education sector, what needs to be done to breakdown these barriers and how to engage with more young people to boost their interest in digital ways of working within construction.

To hear the full conversation, listen to Episode 4 of the Digital Climate Podcast Series 3 now.

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About the author

Andrew Johnson

Associate, BIM Academy

Andrew is the Learning and Development Lead at BIM Academy, responsible for authoring and delivering digital construction training, as well as designing and developing digital transformation programmes for industry clients. Andrew specialises in digital strategy development through information management on live projects and through research.

In 2019, Andrew left the Corps of Royal Engineers after a full 24 years’ service, leaving as a senior soldier.

Prior to leaving the military, Andrew completed his postgraduate MSc in engineering management, with a thesis that investigated the cultural impact of implementing BIM in the UK construction industry.

Andrew Johnson