CROSS-TRAINING HELPS COLLABORATION
A cross-training program spearheaded by building systems engineering firm Jaros, Baum & Bolles (JB&B) and construction company Turner is breaking new ground in promoting project teamwork and collaboration.
The Design-Build Excellence Cross-Training Program, begun in January 2015, was the pilot for the program. “The initial goal was to improve communications and technical comprehension between our two firms on projects,” says Anthony Montalto, Associate Partner, JB&B and one of the program’s founders. “Less than five years into it, we have more than 20 New-York-area design and construction companies participating across 15 unique programs and counting, and we’ve had over 2,000 professionals collectively accumulate more than 16,000 hours of training.”
FIVE YEARS OLD
Designed in the mold of “JB&B University,” the engineering firm’s internal training vehicle that celebrated its fifth anniversary in September [see sidebar], the cross-training venture exposed some surprising truths. “We found out that there were people on these teams that had never walked on a metal deck or seen a concrete pour. It was an eye-opener for everyone, and it shows the importance of experiential learning,” says Robert Gullickson, a vice president with Turner New York, who worked with Montalto to get the campaign off the ground.
The first program quickly spawned a second, which tackled the complex topic of building envelopes and focused on professionals with 3-5 years’ experience. “It’s about getting our future leaders working with their future leaders,” says Gullickson. “We’ll learn the technicalities of design, and they’ll understand better how the building is built.”
With the participation of design firm Perkins Eastman, curtain wall consultant Heintges, structural engineering firm Thornton Tomasetti and several other companies, the group developed a curriculum intended to better inform all team members of the challenges and duties that each face in designing and constructing a building exterior. And it succeeded beyond expectations, recently being approved for professional development hours by the New York State Board of Education.
Jessica Young, a senior associate at Heintges, says that a major part of the program’s value is that it allows for the exchange of thoughts and ideas without the pressure of specific project responsibilities or deadlines. “It’s an opportunity to have an open dialogue about a subject when it is not critical to a project,” she says. “The discussions are more theoretical, more in the abstract. You can talk about what to do with information or in a particular situation, which helps make it work better when you have an actual project.”
In one real-world case, a Turner employee contacted a cross-training colleague from Heintges to get an unbiased opinion on a challenging issue, even though a different curtain wall consultant was involved in the project. This professional courtesy and cooperation was made possible by the relationship that the two had built through the program.
The building envelope cross-training program is comprised of seven classes, including one each from the perspective of the architect, the building envelope consultant, the MEP engineer and the contractor. The other sessions involve site investigations that provide a valuable viewpoint often lacking in design teams. One recent program included a field trip to a factory where workers fabricate and erect curtain wall panels, a visit to a roofing subcontractor, and a final excursion to view building foundations.
“The program offers a unique viewpoint for professionals who too often focus only on their own issues and disciplines,” says JB&B’s Montalto. “Through exposure to the work and to the concerns of other team members, our people and their people can gain a new perspective on a project – and on the impact of their own work – with every session.”
You can find more information about the overall DBE program – including participating companies, key team members and the program’s mission statement – at its dedicated website, dbextraining.com.
JB&B U Marks 5 Years
In September 2019, 300-person building systems engineering firm Jaros, Baum & Bolles (JB&B) marked the fifth year of its in-house career development program, JB&B U. From humble beginnings as a small, in-house program, it has grown to include 168 MEP-dedicated courses on topics ranging from acid waste drainage and neutralizing systems to courses on valves and dampers. Twenty-seven of the program’s courses are PDH-accredited by New York State. Courses are offered to clients and peer organizations.
Conducted in person by engineers at varying levels of the organization, including associates and associate partners, JB&B U features several “colleges” based on the various trades practiced by JB&B (HVAC, Electrical, Plumbing/Fire Protection, Commissioning, BMS, AV, IT and Lighting). It also features cross-trade classes and professional development. Courses can be customized for peer firms as in-house programs for career development, and the program includes a mentor system that teams new engineers with a senior member of the firm.
“What started out as a mechanism to educate our younger employees about the built environment has turned into a program larger than we’ve ever expected,” says Ryan Lean, an associate partner with JB&B and the current program leader. “The student from a few years ago becomes the teacher of today, and employee engagement is at an all-time high.”
Lean says the top request from job candidates is, “Tell me more about JB&B U.”