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CSI Connect Community Discussion: Recruiting Young Specifiers, Part 2

By Peter Kray posted 01-31-2023 03:27 PM

When CSI published the first "Recruiting Young Specifiers” blog on 12/06/2022, there were three conversations on the Community Connect Forum about how CSI, the architecture, engineering, construction, and owner (AECO) industry, and individual firms can recruit new talent and appeal to a larger demographic of the emerging workforce.

These threads were
 “Thoughts from a Specifications Intern,” “Why Young People Should Consider a Career in the Construction Industry,” and “Recruiting Young Specifiers,” which began as a roundtable discussion at the 2022 CSI National Conference in Denver.

Since the blog was published in December, numerous community members have shared insights and ideas about how to recruit young specifiers. After all, this is an enormously consequential concern throughout this and other industries today. Here are a few more interesting suggestions and perspectives (edited for length and clarity) from this ongoing conversation.

“I was fortunate many years ago to be a young architect in a firm that set out to formally train me as a specifier, in addition to giving me experience in project and client management to get my license. I have always been especially grateful for this. I think every firm of size needs to have this approach to quality control to improve their documents and restore leadership with owners and contractors, especially during the construction phase.

I make it a point to tell young designers that, if they are willing to put in the study and learn in the CSI family, their value to their firm and earnings potential (employee or consultant) is vastly higher as a specification specialist than as a project architect.”
David Bishton RA, FCSI, CCS®, CCCA®, CDT®


“I suspect you won't find a lot of specifiers who have the same backstory. I worked in construction while I earned a biology degree, and then had a winding career path in the seafood and construction industries before landing in an architecture firm as a CA and gradually transitioning into specifications. I think the only constants I've seen among specifiers are industry experience and an insatiable desire to learn more and get deep into a given topic. This is an industry of high-functioning jacks-of-all-trades. In other words, really hard to recruit for.

Unless architecture schools start providing actual technical education instead of the pure design education I see from recent grads, this situation is unlikely to change. Design is obviously critical, but execution is missing from the curricula.”
Chad Oistad CSI, CCS®, CDT®, LEED AP


“By stressing ‘young,’ you miss the point of who can easily shift into spec writing: mid-career architects and project managers who either need flexible schedules or find their careers upended by layoffs. These mid-careers professionals have the practical field experience and an appreciation for specs. They are the immediate future for this profession.

I got into specs 20 years ago when none of the other architects in the firm could be bothered with the coordination/review of project specs. I did the specs while doing CA on a wide variety of projects. At the next firm I started preparing the in-house specs, in between my CA projects. Now I am on my own as a full-time independent spec writer, and there is no shortage of work out there. I get calls from all over the country from desperate small- to med-sized firms in need of an independent spec writer. I enjoy the variety of projects.

BTW: My very first experience with specs was a spec writing contest, as a freshman at a local community college's Architectural Technology Program. I got second place. The first-place contest winner was a middle-aged woman who was doing a midlife career switch into architecture. Never underestimate how a relatively small thing can lead to a career.”
Karen Burditt RA, CSI, CDT®, AIA, NCARB


Read more and add your voice to this conversation.