April 25, 2024

How Smart Tech can help alleviate the labour skills shortage

Construction is the largest industry in the world making up more than 13 percent of GDP globally. Despite this, it has been slow to evolve and has only recently started implementing technological changes. On top of this, the industry fears a lack of talent, with over 38,000 vacancies recorded per quarter in construction in the UK alone. To tackle this challenge, Richard Clement, Deputy General Manager at Smart Construction, discusses how the construction industry can implement changes using smart technology to help alleviate the labour skills shortage.

Why is there a labour skills shortage in the construction industry?

Mr Clement says: ‘’The construction industry is known to be behind the times in terms of digitalisation, however, companies such as Smart Construction are part of the one per cent of those capitalising on developments in technology. The lack of digital awareness, along with an ageing workforce, contributes to why many young workers don’t see an appeal to join the industry.’’

There has been a dramatic fall in 16-30-year-olds entering the construction industry meaning a less agile and a less digitally literate workforce at a time when the industry is trying to focus on digital revolution.

How has this impacted the construction industry?

As of January 2023, research found that 80 per cent of construction firms found it difficult to recruit qualified workers.[1] This demographic trend poses a real challenge for maintaining the industry’s vitality and finding a future workforce. Governments recognise this impending shortfall and are prioritising the skills shortage in Europe with several national and European policies setting new environmental targets that require investment in construction.

Estimations indicate that the green transition could lead to the creation of between 1m and 2.5m additional jobs overall by 2030, a positive outlook for the industry.[2] However, companies would therefore need to have access to a qualified workforce to handle this increasing demand.

Mr Clement says: “Smart technology is crucial for the future of construction, given a push on new government initiatives, the ageing workforce, and the industry’s move towards tech solutions to alleviate the shortage of lower-skilled workers and attract younger ones.’’

How can Smart Technology and digital solutions help alleviate the labour shortage?

Over the next five years, 95 per cent of UK construction companies plan on investing in tech, with the hope of driving more talent into the industry.[3]

“There are multiple benefits to investing in smart technology and digital solutions. From upskilling the workforce, reducing the amount of time required at site or remotely to gather information and communicate changes, to providing tracking data to the customer,’’ Mr Clement explains.

Smart technology and digital solutions can upskill current workers, whilst alleviating pressures on personnel from all stages of the process. Even individuals who don’t consider themselves tech-savvy can benefit from digital solutions – teams across Europe have found the data easy to analyse and interpret. This means less pressure on workers as the load is shared at the job site.

Chris Horn, Technology Manager at HB Golf, offers some insight on how digital solutions have benefited his team on one of his projects in the Czech Republic:  ‘’Smart Construction’s Dashboard has allowed me to regain time which was previously lost to surveying and doing invoices. These are tasks my site managers can now pick up, upskilling the existing workforce, making them more versatile, especially at a time when it has been hard to find qualified managers.’’

Smart Construction in action: What is 3D Machine Guidance, how does it work, how does it benefit?

Smart Construction’s 3D Machine Guidance system is an easy-to-use machine guidance solution that enables excavator operators to dig with centimetre precision. The system provides instant feedback on the screen, which helps operators to reduce over-digging and rework. It also eliminates the need for extra surveying work as operators can check the accuracy of their own work and visualise the finished product with the model on the screen.

Adrian Binkert, owner of Binkert Baggerarbeiten in Switzerland says: “The 3D Machine Guidance system from Smart Construction has proven to be an incredibly cost-effective solution that competes with more expensive systems in terms of performance. Since we fitted the kit on our Volvo EC220, it has been working non-stop. Now the operator can work on-site alone, with no extra surveying work needed.’’

Besides being a standard machine guidance system, 3D Machine Guidance works as an IoT device automatically collecting terrain and payload data, which can be analysed using Smart Construction solutions and expert advice, enabling data-driven decision-making.

What’s next?

There are many ways smart technology can help alleviate the labour skills shortage. It’s essential that the industry and employers recognise what the future could look like for the industry and try to make a change, alongside the efforts to alleviate the pressure of an impending shortage of workers.

Mr Clement explains: ‘’As smart technology develops it can act as a buffer for the challenges the construction industry could face in the coming decades. It will also help to upskill workers in the future, which is essential, and allow less technically confident workers to enter the industry.’’

For more information visit smartconstruction.io.

Richard Clement, Deputy General Manager at Smart Construction

[1] https://raymondsearchgroup.com/overcoming-the-top-5-recruitment-challenges-in-the-construction-industry-in-2023/#:~:text=According%20to%20the%20National%20Center,certain%20tasks%20to%20other%20companies.

[2] https://op.europa.eu/webpub/empl/esde-2023/chapters/chapter-2-3-1.html#:~:text=According%20to%20some%20forecasts%2C%20if,Box%202.2%2C%20Box%202.3).

[3] https://constructionblog.autodesk.com/uk-workforce-future-skills/