Engineering and Construction Contracting Association Honors UH Construction Management for Strategic Preparation of Industry-Ready Professionals

From left: Justin Borchardt, executive board chair of the Engineering and Construction Contracting Association and vice president of business development at S & B Engineers and Constructors; Lingguang Song, construction management professor and department chair at the University of Houston; John Dalton, president of The Dalton Group.

In the world of industrial construction, capital mega-projects with increasing levels of complexity and accelerated time-to-market schedules are becoming a norm. Yet, industry estimates indicate that 65% of them fail with excessive budgets and inadequate project controls.  As the evolving industry explores and implements a wide array of innovative solutions from technology advancements and best practices to new management philosophies, there is a high demand for talent that effectively manages mega-projects. A national professional association representing oil and gas companies, engineering, and construction corporations, the Engineering and Construction Contracting Association (ECC) began to address the gaps between industry skill sets and university curricula ten years ago. In response, the nation’s first university program dedicated to process and industrial construction management was initiated at the University of Houston in 2009.

In recognition of the significant strides since the UH program’s inception, the organization’s annual ‘Spirit of ECC Award’ was presented to the process and industrial (P&I) construction management program. Dr. Lingguang Song, department chair of construction management at the University of Houston received the prestigious award on behalf of the program at the annual conference in Colorado Springs, Colorado, August 28-31, 2019.   “This award is not only about recognizing a university program or any individual. It is a recognition for how industry and academia can work together to achieve great results.  We proudly identify as the industry’s university program,” said Dr. Song.

According to the ECC, an award recipient has responded strategically to a fundamental challenge or opportunity, applied solid ‘thought leadership’, and is a steward toward the betterment of the industry and the people served. Individuals who display an exemplary demonstration of a wide array of talent, skill, and passion that encapsulate the ECC’s mission to engage and improve the industry.

Visionary leaders and tireless support from the industry led the construction program at UH toward a fresh focus on industrial construction. John Dalton, president of the Dalton Group, was instrumental in leading the change, assembling thirty industry leaders from owner and contractor organizations to plan enhancements for the courses offered in the program.   With a goal of producing industry-ready graduates, the curriculum was redesigned, incorporating subjects such as advanced work packaging (AWP), data-centric execution, and construction-driven engineering. The ‘industry professor’ model is a unique strength of the UH construction program.  

Today, subject matter experts with extensive industry experience are involved in the classroom as teachers in addition to experienced faculty in the UH College of Technology.  Leaders from the initial companies that defined the P&I program continue to make up an active construction management industry advisory board, supporting curriculum review and refinement, student scholarships and endowments, internships, fundraising, continuing education, community outreach, to innovation and applied research. Fluor pledged a $1 million endowment in 2016 to support the future growth of the program.

Deepening the commitment to the quality of education and graduates, the program requires all students to complete an internship experience with pre-approved industry employers prior to their graduation. Similarly, all students must take and pass the American Institute of Constructors (AIC) national CM certification exam, which has a national passing rate of 50-60%. With remarkable achievement, five UH students have scored the highest in the AIC exam in the country since 2014.  

“The model of industry support, university commitment, and job creation is leading to a paradigm change to the student education experience at UH. This is not only reflected by the exponential growth of student enrollment during the last 10 years, but the profound change of students’ perception on construction as a career choice,” Song stated.  “We are seeing our graduates enjoy amazing career opportunities that the global industrial sector has to offer – from estimator in a corporate office in Houston, Texas to a project control specialist in West Africa, field engineer on the Canadian coast, or materials manager in a South Asia module fabrication yard. In fact, 90% of the students have a job upon graduating – all certified by the American Institute of Constructors.”  

Watch the Spirit of ECC Award video:

For more information about the program: