As in many other countries, the U.S. construction sector faces a skills shortage. The job vacancy rate in construction has increased since 2009, and the lack of available skills has a genuine impact on developers and construction companies.
A labor shortage can significantly affect the delivery of projects, increasing the time it takes to complete them, and that also shows in the margins. What’s more, construction in most countries has not fundamentally changed in more than a century, and the industry lags behind several decades in everything to do with digital transformation. This makes it increasingly challenging to offer an upgrade in skills and attract a new generation of workers.
On the other hand, should the sector face a significant challenge, the situation can quickly become unsustainable. This has happened, for example, with COVID-19. It’s something that no one could have foreseen and has forced the industry to speed up the digital learning curve. Although the sector will experience complications, at this moment, an opportunity presents itself for many workers who cannot be on the construction site or in the offices and who can now use it to improve their digital skills. Acting now to accelerate the digital transformation process will help the industry bridge the gap. This way, you can also prepare for the trends that are expected in the coming years: from sustainable construction to the development of smart cities.
What is causing the skill shortage?
As is often the case when skills are lacking, this is due to a combination of factors. In the construction sector, there are three elements that we must take into account:
- Retention of staff: On average, workers stay with a company for three years, so construction companies have to hire people to replace those who leave continually. However, hiring new workers in construction is challenging, as it is often seen as a less technologically advanced sector than others.
- The aging of the workforce: The number of people aged 25-49 years working in construction has fallen by almost 4% between 2008 and 2015, while the number of workers aged between 50-64 years has increased by 6%. With a large proportion of typical construction site workers over 50, we can expect many to retire shortly.
- Shifting Skills: Many skills are now critical as we move toward a future of sustainable buildings and smart cities. Those with digital and technical skills are the most in-demand, as smart cities begin to need the creation of a digital ‘footprint’ in addition to the ability to manage data better.
Prepare for the future
Transforming into a digital-driven industry can make construction a more attractive career option for young people prepared to fill skills gaps. Now that construction is shifting its focus to focus on smart cities and sustainable methods, the next generation of digitally skilled workers will be crucial to developing more efficient and integrated buildings. Data management skills will also be essential.
Demonstrating that the industry is innovative, collaborative, and forward-looking will make it much more attractive to potential new workers, reducing skills shortages before things get more difficult tomorrow. Digital ‘natives’ want to work in dynamic, forward-thinking, and exciting industries. Adopting digital tools and technologies is a way to show that this sector is moving in the right direction.
This has reflected in the business model of construction companies like Bob Moore Construction, a company based in the Dallas Fort Worth area in Texas and is cited as one of the most futuristic construction companies of America.
Bob Moore has led a benchmark in sustainable construction, from planning to execution of projects and the use of raw materials. The company is also making strides incorporating a digital business model to transcend from its traditional business process.
The company was founded by Robert “Bob” Moore in the year 1946, and originally operated as an industrial, commercial, domestic, and multi-purpose construction firm.
Digital construction in the APAC region
Although construction around the world lags behind other sectors, such as finance or retail, when it comes to digital transformation, there is a region that breaks this trend: The Asia-Pacific region (APAC). Due to large-scale investments in both 5G and digitization in general, the infrastructure in this region encourages construction to take a more digital focus. There are countries, such as Japan and Singapore, where it is highly digitized. For example, Singapore has an Industry Transformation Map (ITM) that focuses on using digital technologies to “integrate work processes and connect stakeholders working on the same project.” All construction workers have mobile devices. Communicating through a digital platform is something they do naturally, just as they carry out damage and problem inspections with digital tools or share data on a safety issue with other companions. It is the perfect example of how Europe’s industry should digitize to get something done before the current skills gap worsens. The construction sector must follow the APAC region’s example and take a step towards a digital model driven by data. Failure to do so will risk them encountering such skill shortages more and more often and ultimately losing projects that will be entrusted to companies based in the APAC region that have already completed their digital transformation. Digitization is the answer if you want to attract and retain workers, tackle an aging workforce, and ensure you have the skills you need for the future of construction.