What is it truly like to run a large construction company?
As any industry executive will say, doing so isn’t easy. It requires the ability to manage a complex array of components—from recruiting and managing engineers and architects to the cost of building materials and labor to weighing the risks inherent in the wider economic environment.
Some might say that there’s no way to simulate what it takes to oversee a construction business until you’ve done it yourself in real life.
The Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) begs to differ.
Each year since 2014, the U.K.-based construction industry professional association, founded in 1834 and boasting roughly 48,000 members, hosts a Global Student Challenge where college students from all over the world who are planning to pursue careers in the industry compete in teams to run their own virtual construction company.
With the support of a tutor, the four-person student teams participate through a nearly six-month simulation that requires them to think about all aspects of running a company in the built environment. This includes making difficult strategic decisions while also overseeing a simulated firm’s marketing, estimating, tendering, finance and personnel management.
The competition is run on a platform called MERIT, an online game that simulates the management of a construction firm. The game features two critical stages: “The Foundation Years,” an unscored phase where teams become accustomed to the game’s mechanics; and “The Early Years,” where all teams compete and are scored on how well they run their company.
Performance is assessed on metrics including the company’s financials, share price, investments, turnover, profit, overhead costs and client satisfaction, among others.
The top six ranking teams after “The Early Years” phase are invited to compete in the finals, the game’s final phase, which is typically in-person at the association’s annual Member’s Forum held at rotating locations around the world.
This year, the CIOB’s Member Forum and Global Student Competition finals were scheduled to be held in Sydney, Australia, in late June. But due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the in-person event and finals was cancelled in favor of a virtual competition, where daily updates were provided on social media.
On June 26, new CIOB President Mark Beard announced the 2020 winner: DGC Toronto from George Brown College in Ontario, Canada. The team is comprised of Jonathan Isenegger, Philip Jager, Kristopher Turnbull-Poulin and Maxim Sokolicz.
“This is a challenge not for the faint-hearted,” Beard said in a video posted on the CIOB website congratulating DGC Toronto. “All the teams have shown their ability and potential in reaching these finals. As students, you’ll have a better idea of what it’s like working in a construction company making high-level decisions. I have no doubt that all our finalists will be able to reach this level when they leave university.”
Said DGC Toronto following the competition: “The CIOB GSC competition has provided us with a platform to establish ourselves as leading individuals at the college and has ultimately allowed us to gain a strong foothold in the construction industry here in Toronto as we take that knowledge and apply it to our newly found careers. The trials, decisions and even arguments had during the competition have provided us with great insight into the higher-level decisions that happen on a daily basis within a construction company.”
Bluebeam, which has an extensive global academic outreach program, sponsored this year’s CIOB Global Student Challenge.
“Each of you should be so proud of your accomplishments throughout this competition,” said Sophie Macks, Bluebeam’s academic specialist, in a video posted on the CIOB website congratulating the competition’s finalists. “It has been an honor for us at Bluebeam to be in partnership with CIOB and a part of your journey up to this point.”
“We would like to thank Bluebeam for sponsoring the Global Student Challenge for a second year,” said Kate McBeth, CIOB’s director of marketing and digital. “Like the CIOB, Bluebeam understands the importance of mentoring and inspiring future generations in the construction industry. It is with their support we can run competitions like GSC to help young people on their first steps to a successful career in construction.”