Developing a London based construction firm Professional Development through reflection on practice at Ground Construction Ltd.
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Construction is perceived as an unlikely environment for academic work. This project shows that given, support and guidance managers want to develop knowledge and expertise relevant to their professions; resulting in degrees.
Ground Construction selected two senior and two middle managers for development, designed by Middlesex University Work Based Learning Institute. Instead of attending formal lectures; using an action learning approach they completed group projects, enabling each other to apply theory to practice at a level appropriate to their roles. As a result within three years two senior managers were awarded an MA and two middle managers a BA.
A one year follow-up evaluation of individuals themselves and their colleagues revealed:
Senior managers: Improved leadership such as lead roles in tendering; More productive working relationships; Greater confidence representing the organisation externally.
Middle Managers: Greater understanding of systems from tendering to budgeting, resourcing and programming; Improved managerial skills – record keeping, communication, reflective diaries; Higher expectations of workmanship from subordinates;
Directors: View decision making as a more inclusive process; Greater transparency in organisational policy and procedures;
Organisation: Silver membership Investors in People; Development of GCL literature; More lucrative contracts.
Professional Development through reflection on practice. Rather than recruit managers GCL wanted a development route for senior and middle managers to form the nucleus of cultural change.
Work Based Learning enabled:
Managers to use current projects for reflection, leading to academic recognition;
Presentation to GCL directors of outcomes of research and recommendations for improvements;
Development of Blue Prints for improved products, services, systems;
Production of GCL products; Health and Safety teaching aids;
Booklets on Environmental Protection, Fair Face Concrete;
Summaries of Relevant Legislation in Construction;
Dissemination of knowledge through relevant professional bodies.[/one_half_last]
Work Based Learning demands time and energy together with support of family, friends and organisation. The course must be flexible. It also requires excellent organisational skills, higher level literacy skills, intellectual skills, ability to work in a self directed way with access to relevant computer hardware and software.
Lessons learned from the project: Undergraduates would benefit from an introductory course to prepare the candidate for the demands of formal learning; Post-graduates would benefit from refresher sessions in on-line research, referencing styles, use of software packages; Organisations must allow non-contact time for meetings either face-to-face or electronically.
Through this project GCL demonstrated how the construction industry can celebrate and learn from its own practice. Furthermore it has shown how middle and senior managers can work together and create a culture of organisational learning.
Through Work Based Learning, a selection of managers with different roles, authority and experience were exposed to the challenges of Higher Education, requiring them to reflect on their own assumptions and work practices. Collaborative learning enhanced their sense of belonging and engagement in a creative and meaningful way. GCL is the first SME in Construction to implement work- based degrees to develop its organisation.[/one_half_last]
Helena Boland MA; MSc
Helena has a wealth of experience in Psychology and Education. Her years of experience in higher education, places her at the centre of personal development and programme design. Helena has been an assessor, adviser and consultant to Further Education colleges in the field of specific learning difficulties.
She is a graduate member of the occupational division of The British Psychological Society. As an accredited Journey practitioner, she offers this life-changing work to individuals and small groups. Helena is passionate about applying her knowledge, skills and experience to SME’s, particularly in the construction industry.