Case studies: Cross sector electives in building and construction

Video interview

Employers, students and teachers explain how cross sector electives in construction can combine practical and theoretical knowledge to advantage the students and the industry.


Narrator: Today’s construction industry requires both theoretical knowledge and practical skills for efficient building. RMIT, a dual-sector institution, can provide job-ready construction graduates through skills electives. Fred Baltetsch from Abigroup explains:

Fred Baltetsch: What we find is that the practical students, being the apprentices or the traditional trade area, really can’t communicate with the engineers or the higher degree qualifications, because they can’t communicate on the same level. Our diploma students or degree students who have come out of the training institutions, struggle to come up with the practical concepts dealing with issues that come with problem solving, because, you know, a construction site job can always have issues that come up about… that you can’t foresee. So those problem-solving skills are very critical to the outcome. I think it’s really good to see a university or a TAFE sector really thinking about what industry actually requires out there.

Narrator: Students themselves benefit from dual sector initiatives.

Hamish McLean: I think in the workplace, having practical knowledge as well as theoretical knowledge is extremely useful. It’s helped certainly to understand the theory behind designing, as well as executing buildings. So for instance, when you’re looking at the build ability of a building, it’s really good to actually understand certain angles are just horrendous to design into a building, because the carpenters will have great difficulty, and it can cause a whole lot of damage further down the track, on your scheduling and things like that.

Narrator: Developing initiatives such as cross-sector electives, is an important way of responding to industry needs and enhancing student employability. Peter Dunbabin explains.

Peter Dunbabin: Cross-sector electives gives the students a great chance to get two qualifications. For the higher-ed students, it gives them a chance to get the diploma with the elective that they are doing, and of course what we do is we RPL a lot of the stuff that they do in their degree program, back into the diploma, and we did a matrix to make sure that they covered everything that was required for the diploma.

Hamish McLean: I think I’m fairly lucky that I’m now in employment with Abigroup who are quite supportive of such a new program with the practical and theoretical.

Fred Baltetsch: He can see the cross-pollination between his theoretical studies off-site, with his practical environment, and in turn it will also help him with his estimating skills. So when he’s actually doing his estimating competency back at RMIT, he can actually have an understanding what happens on-site, and get some value of time factors, materials, and also the wastage of materials.

Hamish McLean: I’d certainly recommend this program as I was very fortunate to have a quite supportive school who believed that it was a very well articulated program, and that RMIT was unique in that. I’ve also seen the industry support from industry to RMIT. I think certainly future employment will benefit by this, and future employers such as Abigroup and other building companies have, in fact, requested this level of practical and theoretical, because it’s well received.