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For a construction employer, the ideal new hire is a high-energy recent graduate—especially one who has already completed an RFP, led a project team and defended a proposal before a room of tough critics.

That’s exactly the experience that participants from 26 colleges and universities will gain at Associated Builders and Contractors’ annual Construction Management Competition (CMC), a hallmark event that promotes a career in construction management for members of the ABC National Student Chapter Network.

The competition, which will take place at ABC Convention 2020 in Nashville, gives the nation’s top students a glimpse into the real world of construction, as well as an opportunity to showcase their talents.

The competition fosters an environment that will bring out the best in each team, encourage dialogue among the students, and foster team spirit as students rise to meet this challenge.

While every school is striving for the “gold,” this event is not just about winning the big award; the competition serves as the qualifying round for the construction Olympics: a future full-time job.

For team sponsors and faculty advisers, the reward lies in making students workforce-ready to make an impact as they mature in their careers. And for the students, collaborating with experienced construction professionals helps build connections with companies that could potentially turn into employers.

In the pages ahead, several of this year’s CMC competitors share first-person accounts of past lessons learned and victories to come.

Alfred State College
Alfred, New York

DYLAN ATWATER 
ABC Student Chapter President
Construction management competitions are as real-world as we will see prior to beginning our professional careers. The stress, deadlines, formality and thought required are exactly what will be required on the countless projects we will be involved in over the next several decades. 

Whether we end up as estimators, project managers, supervisors or even quality control specialists, the understanding of each phase in construction, as well as how each phase interacts with others, is critical. As this competition involves a technical proposal and presentation, the skills obtained in problem-solving, planning and presenting will be important for our future careers.

We believe we are prepared for whatever is thrown at us. Our real-world experience, combined with support from industry professionals, has prepared us for these situations. Our team has built trust and reliance with each other, and we will handle all conflicts in an organized and professional way, similar to situations experienced first-hand in the industry.

ERIN VITALE 
Chair
Civil Engineering
Technology Department
I am proud of this team already. They took the bull by the horns and did all the legwork to get themselves into the competition. 

We try to teach them all kinds of things in the classroom, but when the industry asks them to perform similar tasks, they gain a real confidence in their skill sets. The whole experience will be a great memory of their college careers. 

Colorado State University
Fort Collins, Colorado

CHRIS MARTIN 
ABC Student Chapter President 

The Colorado State University team has historically created a tight bond throughout the competition. Through countless hours together in preparation and review, we have learned each team member’s idiosyncrasies. We have become very close and rely on each other to deliver when it is needed most. This bond makes it easier to deal with conflicts when they arise—it’s always easier to work through conflict with friends.

We take pride in being prepared for the competition in all aspects. Mentally, we try to prepare for the unexpected changes that come with the CMC. The judges do a great job every year of keeping us on our toes. 

This competition allows us to put all of the information we learn in classes together in one place and improve on weak areas that are inevitably exposed. During my internships, I referred back to lessons I have learned during my time in the competition, and I know the other team members can say the same. 

JON ELLIOTT 
Associate Professor and 
Undergraduate Program Coordinator 
Construction Management

CSU is fortunate to have extremely talented, dedicated construction management student leaders who drive—with little coaching—the competition preparation and creation of technical deliverables. 

As the faculty advisor (and with the help of exceptional industry supporters), I ask students to present their work at numerous milestones. After the presentations, we provide constructive feedback and ask difficult questions to prepare them for the final event.

I feel the ABC CMC is similar to “real world” construction management practice. From the preparation that is required in Step I, to making changes in Step II, while maintaining continuity in the deliverables, through to the project presentations, the CMC gives students a chance to act as a team of professionals while the stakes are still “low” due to the learning environment. 

Ferris State University
Big Rapids, Michigan

JOHN POSILLICO 
Assistant Professor 
College of Engineering Technology 
School of Built Environment

Our preparation and research strategy consists of three aspects: construction sequence/method, interrelationships and professionalism. First, while every team is able to understand the main building sequence, the finite details are what help distinguish high-performing teams. Second, the interrelationships among all of the construction management pieces need to be articulated specific to the project at hand. If, for example, safety documentation requirements are needed, the administrative cost for an additional team member needs to be considered and reflected accordingly. Finally, the professionalism of the team throughout all aspects of the competition needs to be on point. 

Understanding audience communication, inter-team rapport, the organization and neatness of the proposal—these are the small items that can be the difference between first and third place.

Lawrence Technological University
Southfield, Michigan

 AHMED AL-BAYATI
Assistant Professor
Civil and Architectural Engineering

My team and I are so excited to participate for the first time this year in this unique opportunity to meet and work with the best programs across the country. We will utilize faculty skills and experience, as well as student enthusiasm and knowledge to ensure that our team will be one of the best. 
Having our students learn from experienced construction practitioners while working on different aspects of a real construction project will be a great training opportunity. Students will utilize the skills and knowledge they will acquire during the competition for years to come. Their confidence, soft skills and likelihood of success will all increase, and we are infinitely grateful to the ABC organization for having us. 

Louisiana State University
Baton Rouge, Louisiana

CHARLES PECQUET
Professional in Residence and CM 
Midsouth OSHA OTIEC Coordinator 
Bert S. Turner Department of 
Construction Management

We allow the students to take ownership of their “company.” We have traditionally used a co-team captain approach, and at the end of each year’s competition, two captains are chosen to lead the following year. They spend the next several months assessing their company needs, recruiting new students to fill positions left vacant by graduates, as well as reaching out to industry through the ABC Young Professionals program to put together a team of technical advisers.

This competition plays a tremendous role in preparing students for the real world. With an actual project selected and judged by industry representatives working on that project, our students gain insight into the construction management process in a way that a classroom can’t replicate as easily. 

Pennsylvania College of Technology 
Williamsport, Pennsylvania

DEREK SMITH
ABC Student Chapter President

This competition is the closest you can come to the real world in an educational setting. 

One of the many challenges a project manager or superintendent faces at work every day is change and conflict. Team members have experienced several years of construction internships, past competitions and are continually challenged with problem-solving and conflict resolution in group projects and assignments throughout our college curriculum.

Through these past experiences and lessons, we feel that we are as prepared as we can be and are excited to see how the judges, and the current project, will push us as we work together toward a common goal. 

WAYNE SHEPPARD 
Department Head
Assistant Professor 
Construction Management

One of the unique aspects of teaching construction management students is they are go-getters. They have faced many projects and challenges; have utilized general management and organizational skills; and possess specialized knowledge of construction in the classroom as part of the student chapter, during internships and many other activities. The students self-select the team members, raise much of the financial support needed, organize work sessions and complete the projects. 

The CMC creates a profession-based competitive environment closer to the real world than we can create in the classroom, and then utilizes industry professionals to evaluate and judge the product. The various components of the competition are comprised of challenges that exist throughout our industry, representing many different types of work, positions within an organization and stages of the project. 

The CMC offers students the opportunity to develop, test and sharpen these skills against peers from across the nation in preparation for joining the industry.

University of Central Florida
Orlando, Florida

ALDEN C. GUNDER 
ABC Student Chapter President

Our student chapter has been participating in the ABC CMC for many years, and we take pride in the knowledge that we gain from the experience. This competition helps a lot of our student chapter members realize that this is what they want to do for their careers moving forward. The competition is a huge résumé builder, and I cannot emphasize that enough. 

Most of the work that goes into this competition is compacted within the two months we have before the competition to put everything together; i.e., the estimate, schedule, project management plan, quality, safety and logistics. A lot goes into the project before we even step foot in Nashville. I believe that our team, which is full of engineers and critical thinkers, has a lot of potential this year, and we are gearing up to be the best team in the nation.

DR. AMR A. OLOUFA 
Professor and Director of 
Construction Programs 
Department of Civil, Environmental 
and Construction Engineering

As an engineering program, we do not have the luxury of offering the same number of courses taken by construction management students. For this reason, our strategy is twofold:
Offer training in estimating and scheduling software.
Rely on our industrial partners to help students prepare for the competition.

The competition provides an excellent opportunity for our students to be immersed in a competitive environment that requires them to adapt and to apply knowledge from all the construction courses they studied. Students get to see in real time some of the typical stresses they will face after graduation, such as having limited time, not having all the needed information and having to respond to a dynamic scenario without prior preparation. These skills are extremely hard to teach in a classroom setting, and I feel that the competition is the perfect venue for that.

The competition helps our faculty to continuously improve our academic program to prepare students who are competitive in both the engineering and the management fields.

University of Cincinnati
Cincinnati, Ohio

AMANDA ALBRECHT
Assistant Dean of Academics
College of Engineering and Applied Science

At the University of Cincinnati, our construction management program is actually a five-year program—it is eight academic semesters, just like a typical bachelor of science degree, but it also includes five semesters of co-op experience. This means that our students have five semesters of hands-on, real-world experience working for general contractors, subcontractors and construction owners across the country—there’s no better practical or technical training than that.

In addition to relying on their academic and co-op training to prepare for the competition, the UC team will thoroughly review the RFP, note each deliverable and assign responsibility, while tracking progress toward completion as they meet on a regular basis until the proposal is due. They will also prepare a draft presentation and conduct an informal walk-through of the project in front of one of our senior courses. This gives them a little bit of presentation practice in front of their peers and gives their peers an opportunity to both critique and learn from the team’s project.

The ABC CMC provides an opportunity for the students to hone all those skills for the real world, where they will respond to RFPs and interpret drawings and specifications to compete for work, as well as explain and defend their means and methods for approaching a project. 

DOMINIC DEA 
2020 CMC Team Leader

The University of Cincinnati has produced a winning tradition at national construction competitions and has always expected its students to put forth a quality product against the other renowned programs. Our team looks to continue the path that our alumni have set forth for us and add to the winning tradition.

Our team will rely on both our past co-op experiences and classwork, as well as our individual previous experiences at national construction competitions, to provide us with the confidence and problem-solving process to compete against the other schools. Our team consists of all fifth-years, who are experienced and mature enough to isolate conflict and look to resolve it without having egos get in the way.

This competition throws the team into the fire and requires everyone to think like a project manager or superintendent. The CMC’s deliverables do a great job in terms of bringing real-world situations to college students.

University of Wisconsin Platteville
Platteville, Wisconsin

GRETCHEN BOCKENHAUER 
Lecture and Co-Program Coordinator
Construction Management

In anticipation of ABC Construction Management Competition in Nashville, our strategy for preparing the team was to select the team members six months in advance so they can get to know one another, do team-building activities, complete interviews and site tours at industry partners’ projects, and meet with past ABC competition teams to get advice. 

We reviewed construction situations at our UW-Platteville hands-on labs, which include a commercial construction lab, road and infrastructure lab and safety lab. We also had each one of the CM professors help with any questions on software and give advice on how to put the technical pieces together for the RFP. 

Overall, the competition is a great way for students to understand what really is involved when bidding on a project and the amount of coordination and the network of people it takes to be successful. The competition day helps students understand the pressure of submitting a change request within a short deadline.

DAVID REGAN
ABC Student Chapter President

Although we are not yet professionals in this field, we feel like this competition will give us a leg up when looking for full-time jobs in the upcoming years. The standard set by this competition pushes us to think outside the box and reach a little bit further so when we enter our full-time positions, we are well-rounded construction managers. 

Our team will mentally prepare for this competition by taking a few simple, yet clinical steps to ensure we are all mentally on the same page when we arrive in Nashville. We are continuously speaking with previous competitors to understand their shortcomings and to address any problems before they may arise. We are also meeting with outside industry partners to learn about projects and the daily challenges they face when working in this field. 

Louisiana State University
Baton Rouge, Louisiana

ADAM BURKHALTER & ANNALISE RABITO 
ABC Co-Student Chapter Presidents

Louisiana State University’s construction management students take the ABC competition very seriously. The past two years (2018 and 2019), our team has placed third overall in the competition, and third in the estimating sector in 2019. We have big shoes to fill, and everyone on the team knows that; that being said, we really try to prepare ourselves by looking over what has been done in the past to see what worked and where to spend our time. Also, we host several meetings in the months and weeks prior to the competition so everybody has time to learn people’s faces and personalities so there are no surprises when it comes time to get to work. 

We have selected a strong, cooperative group of intelligent students who are all motivated to work accurately and persistently on the project. We are truly inspired by our past successes, our phenomenal team and all of the industry professionals who are willing to help us become the first-place team. Participation would be impossible without support from our sponsor, the Pelican Chapter of ABC.

The ABC competition is the greatest preparation for our future in the real world of construction. We work as a team, similar to working with a company. We rely on each other, support each other and work as a unit to achieve a common goal. Similar to real life construction, we communicate consistently with other professionals in the industry. Communication is a key component to being successful, especially in construction work.

The University of Tennessee Knoxville
Knoxville, Tennessee

ANGELA SMITH 
Professor 
Construction Science Department

Any construction professional can tell you that there is no substitute for real-world construction. The ABC CMC is a good simulation of the technical challenges that construction professionals face. The competition team does an excellent job of creating conditions that require both knowledge of the process and the ability to react quickly. The students get to experience the thrill of competition while using their best skills.

We hope that the rigorous curriculum of our program addresses every aspect of the competition and/or informs students on how to find and develop construction management solutions on the fly.

CARSON STAFFORD 
2020 CMC Team Leader

The UT Construction Science program is growing quickly. With so many new faces, we would like to demonstrate what seniors in the program are capable of. We’re hoping we can inspire some newer students to take part in the competition next year.

To prepare, we will trust what we’ve learned so far and remember that we’re not alone in this competition. If one of us second-guesses ourselves, we have a team to lean on in order to get the job done. We will also do our best to figure out strengths and weaknesses so that when the clock is ticking, we can make the most of our time.

Every member of our group has had the privilege of participating in at least one internship or has worked for a general contractor or subcontractor. We’ve had a taste of what it’s like to work on and estimate real projects—where money is on the line. This competition will help us prepare, just like our past work experience has. 

Our group has spent a good deal of time together in class and we work well with one another; however, if conflict arises, we will identify the problem first to ensure there isn’t a miscommunication. Then, we can listen to each other carefully to understand the different ways in which we can reach a desired outcome.

Check out the competition details and a highlight video at abc.org/cmc.

 

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