We’ve all heard the anecdotal stories and quantitative studies that spotlight the continued workforce struggles across the construction industry.
A recent Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) release noted that there were about 8million people working in construction in September—an increase of 11,000 jobs from August and 217,000 from 2022 a year earlier. Good numbers, but still a long way from relieving the pressure on the industry as it struggles to meet demand particularly for infrastructure improvements. A model developed by ABC earlier this year estimated that 646,100 openings are projected each year, on average, in construction and extraction occupations due to employment growth and the need to replace workers who leave the occupations permanently.
As the industry continues to struggle with workforce shortages as well as increasingly inexperienced skilled laborers, relieving the strain will come down to the convergence of talent, technology, and training.
Level Up and Educate
The opportunity to use some of the latest technological advancements such as 3D/BIM, machine control, collaboration software and even artificial intelligence can go a long way to showing potential talent that construction is an increasingly modern workspace. It’s not all hard hats, boots and big machines. In fact, many of today’s job sites are largely facilitated by smartphones, tablets, and in-cab applications.
A Forbes feature spotlighted the evolving world of construction tech and how that shift is increasing demand for a new kind of construction worker, one with a comprehensive understanding of emerging technologies as well as the built environment.
With technology in hand, construction professionals can bring experienced workers and inexperienced workers together, ultimately achieving the best from both. When your best people have the best tools, they will be more engaged and motivated to do their jobs, which often leads to increased productivity. Conversely, manual data entry often leads to a higher turnover rate. By adopting digital technology, the industry can attract a higher level of talent and increase retainment. It’s simply a more rewarding job when it’s digital.
That said, these improved workflows don’t negate the need for training; in fact, I would argue that the rapid advancement of technology both in the field and the office requires more training and certainly more communication about how to use point solutions and how that data is then shared across the project workflow.
Every company needs to emphasize training on familiar construction techniques and skilled trades, as well as on emerging skills, such as the use of drones, LiDAR, photogrammetry, and other reality capture technologies along with 3D/4D workflows.
The industry needs to support apprenticeships and other ways of exposing people to all the cool things it is doing, for instance, the self-directed SYNCHRO training content that’s available on Bentley Communities.
The Digital Effect
One of the side effects of an increasingly digital world is the emergence of new job positions. Leading construction companies are introducing new roles that emphasize the need for workers with a mix of computational knowledge, project management skills, and real-world understanding of the needs, challenges and realities of the construction site.
For instance, we now need artificial intelligence and machine learning specialists who understand how to develop intelligent models and draw lessons learned from that knowledge. That said, we should also not forget technical skill translation. We can hire data scientists, for instance, but we need to show them how to apply that knowledge to the built environment.
Twenty-five years ago, the industry was completing takeoffs on a piece of paper, there were filing cabinets in the job trailer, nobody had a laptop, and cell phones were just introduced. We transformed the way projects were run just by introducing laptops and cell phones, and we didn't get rid of all our people when we introduced laptops. We just gave them a better tool. The digital culture that people grow up in today lends itself toward picking these things up quickly—and there’s so much potential if we find a way to converge talent, technology, and training.
Today’s workforce is increasingly focused on making a difference, in seeing the value of the work they do every day and how that work directly influences the world around them. The construction industry has a massive impact on the daily lives of nearly every individual in some way. Imagine how these talented individuals might solve current challenges such as budget overspends, time-intensive and error-prone workflows, disparate systems and siloed data, if they are given the tools to succeed.
For more about technologies that attract talent and excite current teams, talk to the SYNCHRO team. SYNCHRO enables collaborative conversation, simplifies the access and capture of data, streamlines workflows, simplifies decision-making and ensures timely project completion.