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Codesma: The European project that offers an online course on building departmental administrations

The CODESMA project brought together five partners from five countries who have extensive expertise in vocational training in the construction industry. This project aimed to support the vocational training of construction site managers during construction and dismantling by addressing current needs taking into account EU priorities in the field of waste management.

Frank Bertelmann-Angenendt, project manager of the Training Centers for the Building Trade e. V. (BZB), reports on the cooperation and what was achieved in the project.

Please present the CODESMA project and its results in a few sentences.

In CODESMA we have developed a multilingual Vocational Open Online Course (VOOC) where content on waste management on the construction site is shown. As a digital tool, this open online course gives a three-part introduction to the areas of waste, processes in dealing with this waste and technologies. The focus is on the effective use of building materials and the management of construction site waste before it even occurs. The early identification of the generated waste should enable the specialists to identify the materials that are considered questionable, to uncover possible dangers for people and the environment and to take protective measures to ensure sustainable disposal.

This course is available free of charge and can be used by anyone interested – from trainees to specialists on the construction site. You only have to register to use it. CODESMA is really a comprehensive compendium that, surprisingly, did not exist before for the target group. Before our project, there were only a few very special courses, but no such overall picture. The project was carried out from October 2018 to the end of 2020 together with project partners from Great Britain, Lithuania, Greece and Poland and funded by the European Union via ERASMUS +.


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Who were the partners in the project consortium?

The CODESMA consortium consists of five organizations from five countries from different areas such as vocational training, the construction industry and research institutions.

How did the multilateral CODESMA project come about?

From the BZB’s point of view, it was created on the basis of a request from a Lithuanian colleague. Together with various partners in Greece and Lithuania, he had determined that there was a need for qualification on the subject of “handling construction waste”. After making inquiries with colleagues in various countries, a partnership of Greek, Lithuanian, Polish, British and German partners emerged in the end. We knew each other partly from previous projects, so that everyone had already worked with at least one other partner. And from today’s perspective, I have to say that it was a good thing, because knowing each other naturally creates a good foundation of trust. And CODESMA was particularly valuable for strengthening the cooperation with partners in Lithuania and England. The partner composition was therefore based on recommendations – not as a “cold call”.

The CODESMA VOOC addresses an important environmental issue with the topic of ‘Handling construction waste’. Is this handled identically in all five partner countries? In the worst case, what could happen if construction waste is not handled properly?

Construction waste is toxic to all people – regardless of whether they are German or Greek. The main problems here are not in the existing regulations or in the implementation of the regulation. The national rules of the individual countries correspond to the international and European rules.

The main problem lies in the wrong handling. In my perception, environmental awareness is more pronounced in Germany than, for example, in southern or eastern Europe, where environmental regulations are often dealt with more laxly. This is also due to the controls and the consequences of any controls. But what is offered in the education system of the countries is definitely EU-adequate. You can teach people what you want, but if they continue to mishandle construction waste, personal injury can still result. In addition, incorrect handling can of course cause environmental damage. Improper disposal of waste can also be a criminal offense. 

Vocational training is regulated in the European Union at the level of the member states. What was the significance of the different vocational training systems and for the development of the online course? How was it possible that it could be used in different countries?

The differences in vocational training between the various member states were not of great importance within the project. We defined our target group in the project via the competence level in the European Qualifications Framework and not via the educational qualification. It can of course be the case that the corresponding level is reached in our third year of training, but in Greece you have a skilled worker who has just finished his training.

In addition, we have largely avoided country-specific content in CODESMA. The reason for this is that we created a product in the project that should fit as many countries as possible. The situations and experiences from five different countries flow into the project like a funnel. The product that is developed in the process is then sprinkled back into the countries as if through an inverted funnel. This means that most of the results cannot be used one by one in the countries. It is the same with us. CODESMA is available in German in many facets of the topic, but we cannot say: “So, here you have CODESMA and now do it.” We have to see that we can get back the setting, the didactic embedding in the right way.

How has the BZB integrated the VOOC (Vocational Open Online Course) into its offering?

The trainers at the BZB decide how to integrate the VOOC in a didactically sensible way, for example at which points in the framework curriculum of the building construction training program CODESMA is used as a clear and comprehensive tool. This can happen, for example, within the framework of the so-called margin time, i.e. the time in which the companies voluntarily send their trainees to us at the training center.

Which political goals of the European Union did the project support?

There are basically four EU initiatives to which we have referred: These are the protocol for dealing with EU Construction & Demolition Waste Management Protocol (2016), the Construction 2020 Strategy (2012), the Communication on Resource Efficiency Opportunities in the Building Sector (2014) and essentially the Circular Economy Package (2015). The implementation of these European initiatives had to take place at Member state level.

We also asked ourselves: “What has actually arisen from these European papers in vocational training in the individual member states?” In summary, it can be stated here that, of course, they only arizen there very indirectly. The need for qualifications addressed by training centers results from the need on the construction site and relates to the applicable national regulations. However, these rules should implement the European ones.

How does the BZB benefit from CODESMA?

With CODESMA, we have contributed to the BZB’s goal of increasingly offering more content digitally. For us, digital learning is not an end in itself, but should be offered where it makes sense. Not all content is suitable for digital processing.

What did you learn from the development of CODESMA for the digital communication of skills? What would you do again in a future project to develop an online service and what would you do differently?

I have been involved in such projects since 2004. And what we notice again and again is that it is advisable to avoid interfaces between content development and technical implementation. At that time, we trained master craftsmen who work as lecturers in our master’s school to become so-called “certified telecoaches”. You are now not only able to develop the content, but can also implement it technically. We also used that at CODESMA. Because both tasks lie with one person, we avoid a loss of effectiveness and can plan better in terms of time.

In summary, we can say that the approach of using VOOC is good. At CODESMA we developed the content in Powerpoint. The content then had to be raised to the VOOC level. The compatibility was only around 80-90%. Transferring from one tool to the other was problematic and cost time and resources. We would take these compatibility problems into account in future project planning.

What we also recognize again and again is that it is important for our target group in the construction sector to have little text and to work a lot with other media, e.g. illustrations, YouTube videos or audio.

What we learned in CODESMA, we now use in other projects in which the BZB is involved:

  • CODESMA is now the technical basis for a new project by our British colleagues entitled “Step into BIM”. The VOOC platform was adopted one by one for this purpose.
  • What we did thematically in CODESMA has been incorporated into other projects, for example the “blueprint” and “Green Growth” projects.

Who (apart from the project partners) helped you to make the results of CODESMA known?

There are two main external multipliers. The first is the Central Association of the German Building Industry (ZDB). The ZDB also tested CODESMA and then presented our VOOC in an information letter to recipients all over Germany.

The second major multiplier was the “Conference on Project Development” (CPD), a project development network at European level. There we presented the project together with the project partners from Lithuania and England. Many of the other participants are now using CODESMA and have adapted and recorded it for themselves.

What effects – with regard to the restrictions in the context of the measures to combat corona – did you have on the project?

The effects on the project work itself were relatively minor. The failure of our personal work meetings was more of a problem. Because the development of the content in European projects is essential, but in the end it could be absorbed using digital conference techniques. The final coordination processes took more time than originally planned, so we extended the project by three months.

How could the project be further developed?

The results of CODESMA VOOC are only available in a few languages.It is advisable to translate it into more languages to extend its range. Unfortunately, this translation is rarely done. In Europe, many project results would be much more widespread if the translation work were done. In my opinion, the relatively low cost of translation could provide a lot of benefit here.


Frank Bertelmann-Angenendt

Project manager of the training centers for the building trade e. V. (BZB)

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