Canadian Consulting Engineer

Integrateducation at Cohos Evamy

An architecture and engineering company has developed a strong in-house professional development program for its employees.

October 1, 2008   Canadian Consulting Engineer

An architecture and engineering company has developed a strong in-house professional development program for its employees.

In 2005, Cohos Evamy, an architectural and consulting engineering company of 300 employees with offices in Calgary, Edmonton and Toronto, began to recognize the developing shortage of skilled workers in Alberta.

The company has always supported its people in improving their technical and professional skills, but it realized that an additional investment in this area was more important than ever. Professional development would assist the employees to develop their careers, and it would allow younger members of staff to learn from the more senior people.

The company also believes that a strong professional development program appeals to prospective employees interested in personal growth. All these benefits ultimately contribute to delivering better projects for the clients.

After benchmarking professional development programs in the engineering and architectural fields, the firm made a commitment to fund an internal program and hired a dedicated program coordinator.

An Education Advisory Committee consisting of representatives from across disciplines was formed to study the firm’s educational needs and identify specific curriculum content that should be offered. Each year this standing committee is charged with updating and expanding the curriculum to meet changing needs.

Practical Matters

Cohos Evamy invested in a dedicated intranet website devoted to what came to be called the “integrateducation™ program.” The site promotes the sessions, provides information, and allows for online course registration.

Early in the planning stages of the program, the committee determined to provide as much face-to-face contact as possible between the presenters and audiences.

However, the company has three different locations, so to be environmentally friendly –reducing travel and the use of jet fuel for example –courses in the different three locations are offered through the use of webcasts, distance learning, and video recordings. The program will ultimately consist of about 50% traditional learning and 50% distance learning.

Sessions are generally structured to suit a 90-minute or two-hour workshop, usually held at lunchtime. Lunch is provided for attendees.

The attendees are encouraged to complete an anonymous evaluation form at the end of each session. This feedback is used by the program coordinator and the advisory committee to make improvements.

Though attendance is not mandatory, people are encouraged to attend all sessions. Attendance is recorded and placed in personnel files for use during annual reviews.

Approximately two-thirds of the sessions are taught by the company’s in-house senior personnel, with the remainder led by hired external experts.

Course content

The program was launched in the fall of 2006, and by the end of the 2007-2008 curriculum, had resulted in 143 sessions: 67 in Calgary, 36 in Toronto, and 40 in Edmonton. The focus in the first years has been to emphasize topics that are applicable and of interest to structural, mechanical, and electrical engineers, as well as to interior designers and architects. The intent is to develop a common understanding and enhance respect between personnel in different fields.

Fields of study include integrated design, building technology, project management, contracts and construction, personal development, safety, and software and computer technology.

The breadth and depth of the curriculum will continue to expand to capture more discipline-specific topics. The long-term plan is that the program will be fully developed by year five.

In sum, the professional development program is built around five strategic objectives:

• share and disseminate knowledge

• foster creative thinking

• inspire design excellence

• support the career development of all Cohos Evamy people

• reinforce the company’s culture of quality, green, integrated design.

In the future, the company plans to invite clients and sub-consultants to attend the sessions so that the profession as a whole can benefit as much as possible.

Name of project: integrateducation™

Award-winning firm: Cohos Evamy integratedesign™ Calgary, Edmonton, Toronto (Jeff DiBattista, P. Eng., Judy Frain)


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