The construction industry is suffering from an ongoing shortage of workers at the same time as technological advances are set to change the industry through a huge increase in automation and robotic technologies. This means that construction is set to enter a period of flux and the role of the worker is likely to change.
- The construction industry has a labour shortage.
- As it enters a period of transformative technological shift, workers’ traditional roles must adapt to survive.
A current issue for UK construction companies is the impact of workforce shortages in terms of skilled workers.
Nevertheless, the industry is entering a period of transformation. As the technological shift to more automation begins to take shape, construction companies will move to evolve how they work through the use of robotics and heavy technology on job sites and throughout the construction industry.
One of the consequences of increased automation is a potential skills discrepancy between robots that can do the physical labour previously carried out by workers such as laying the bricks or excavations or fencing the site area.
If a robot can do it, then why bother with the workers?
Well, the workers will still need to direct the automation and to do this, their technological skills will need to increase. So, a worker who up until this point has had a labour-focused job will need support to manage the transition to automation from the private and public sector, and from within the industry itself.
The current model of baseline vocational qualifications delivered by colleges the public sector will need to adapt to accommodate the pending technological shift through the curriculum for new entrants. Workers who have been in the industry for years already will need to be upskilled or reskilled altogether.
Besides public-sector input, the private sector also has a role to play in preparing apprenticed and established workers for the technological shifts and changing skills that are required. As times passes, sufficiently qualified and skilled workers will be at a premium in an industry with workforce shortages. A company’s failure to engage with these changes, to develop their workers’ skills, and to prepare them for the future would be a short-sighted approach.
However, if there is disruption ahead for construction, there is opportunity. Supporting workers to develop the skills required to succeed will create stronger supply of labour in the industry and increase productivity.
The accelerating pace of technological innovation should mean a continually evolving mix of soft and technical skills that exists with people and machines working in conjunction. Robotics and automation are coming, but at the end of the day, it is still the worker who must place each piece correctly or instruct the machine to do so.