Dealing with challenges and educating employees at the same time: The Building project as Learning Community.Amber Kornet, University of Twente (the Netherlands)


Once upon a time

  • The protagonist:

Paul is director of Installation company Whetherwood in the eastern part of the Netherlands. He has long time experience in the installation sector and sees the consequences of the energy transition on his company.

  • The situation:

Due to the energy transition work is piling up at Wetherwood. Everybody wants to have sustainable energy. However, in utilization it is hard to keep up as the workforce is not ready for new ways of working including the collaboration and communication between professions on the construction site. Engineers and building site workers are doing their best, but projects keep being postponed because of new demands and later delayed because of errors. For example, workers keep making errors because the engineers’ drawings are behind or issues at the building site aren’t communicated back to the engineers at the drawing table which leads to a delay of deadlines.

Then one day

Paul learns of the initiative of The Topsectors in the Netherlands who encourage Learning Communities to help the energy transformation. Learning communities are public-private collaborations where employees of installation companies, students and teachers of higher and vocational education work together on challenges regarding the energy transition. Paul decides to form a learning community. Engineers, building site workers, students and teachers work together, led by a facilitator, for ten weeks on the challenge. They meet weekly and trough watching videos, experimenting with the software and also experiment working together, they produced a new organizational structure and handbook to work together with the software. Students learned the work of the installation workers and how to perform the tasks with help of the software. Teachers learned how they could teach other students in how installation companies work with the collaboration software. Paul is very pleased with this, because the Installation Sector is suffering from shortage of employees and now these students could potentially start working this way tomorrow. After the ten weeks engineers and building site workers learned to work together more effective, reported to understand each other better and see the need for proper communication.

The moral

Good communication between building site and drawing table is of great importance to reduces flaws and thereby reducing building projects becoming delayed. Collaboration software can help solve a part of this problem, but workers also need to adjust their collaborative behavior. In Learning Communities employees (building site workers and engineers) together with students and teacher, lead by a facilitator, can pick up a challenge and come up with solutions within a ten week period. And after that can continue to collaborate and work better with what was learned.

Amber Kornet

Researcher, University of Twente (the Netherlands)

Amber has been working on the Project “Hit the Gas” where learning communities are implemented to accelerate the energy transition. She investigates how and what is learned in these communities.