Why a Contract Administrator should get involved in their Site Engineer/Project Engineers work.

Why a Contract Administrator should get involved in their Site Engineer/Project Engineers work.
June 9, 2018 Todd Richardson

At Construction People, a significant portion of our day is spent understanding what knowledge and traits a candidate requires to be successful with our clients – and in the construction industry in general.

In the case of a CA looking to progress, or increase their chances with prospective employers, the old adage ‘knowledge is power’ comes to mind.

The more knowledge you have about the entire construction process, the better. And one of the easiest ways for a CA to achieve this is to get involved in their Site Engineer/Project Engineers work. Here’s why:


Your Site Engineer/Project Engineer (SE/PE) sees the construction process in action.

Your SE/PE is seeing the construction process in action. Gaining hands-on experience in managing programs of construction, reviewing drawings and dealing with subcontractors concerning anything built on site; which makes them a golden ticket when looking to develop your knowledge!

Having an understanding of the construction process, beyond that of the commercial function, will help you immensely with your scopes of work, stopping/reducing scope creep and dealing with variations.

More importantly, if the long-term goal is to become a project manager, you will require an in-depth understanding of what’s occurring on site beyond the paper trail.


So, how do you get involved in your SE/PEs work?

Get out to site as much as possible.

If you’re based in the office, use as many opportunities as you can to visit site and see your projects/interact with the SE/PE first-hand.

Alternatively, if you’re located on site, use your dealings with them to your advantage. Don’t just sit back and listen when they come to you with information on a variation or design issue, ask them to take you to site and physically show you the problem.

By taking a passive approach to your interactions with your SE/PE, you’re missing a crucial opportunity to dig deeper into what’s occurred on site and why.

You’re also missing a chance to collaborate with them and the subcontractors face-to-face to build on your relationship, find out exactly what goes into their work and what the time and costs involved are. It’s difficult to gain an accurate understanding of this sitting at a desk.

By improving your understanding of the site team’s roles and the time and costs involved you will be able to –

      • Improve your scopes, contract letting negotiations, contract management and reduce variations;
      • Compare subcontractor tender prices;
      • Open up a clearer line of communication with your subcontractors, because you can speak their language!
      • Understand the SE/PE and subcontractors roles better, which will in turn give you a platform to develop effective relationships with them.

Having a sound ability to manage all of the different relationships on a project will not only benefit you in your current role, it’s also a vital skill of a successful PM. So, if it’s a career path you’re hoping to walk down, relationship management is something you should proactively work on in your time as a CA.

Use their knowledge to understand the bigger picture in your work

This goes hand-in-hand with getting out to your site.

As well as seeing the work in action, ask questions of the SE/PE when being handed information. What’s the issue that’s occurred? What was wrong with the design? Presenting an interest to delve further into an issue or variation that’s arisen shows enthusiasm for your work and allows you to deepen your understanding of how the project’s current position came to be – e.g. why the variation occurred in the first place.

By maintaining active involvement in your SE/PEs work, you will gain a broader understanding of the construction process and open the door to building a strong rapport with them – putting yourself on their radar to invest some time in you!

And from our experience, CAs who actively work to build their relationships on site and expose themselves to different aspects of the construction process often progress faster than those who don’t.

Ultimately, if you want to have a successful career as a CA and progress in your role, it’s important not to get stuck behind your desk and rest on your laurels when handed information. Take control of your learning and actively engage with the people around you. All of your exchanges are an opportunity to learn more – so treat them that way!

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