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11 JUN 2020

What is the future of skills in construction?

Amanda Clack FRICS

Amanda Clack FRICS

Past President 2016/17

London, UK

It is clear that the future of working in construction is set for radical change. This is partly out of necessity. Its renowned inefficient working practices have been driving up cost and increasing waste, while there is also the need to respond swiftly to the ever rapidly changing PEST (Political, Economic, Social and Technological) environment that has been all too evident in 2020. This has been particularly apparent through the global health pandemic of Covid-19, which has forced many construction sites to either close, or to adapt to new ways of working to facilitate social distancing to help keep construction workers safe. We are not out the other side of this yet by a long way. 

Constructing an economic recovery

But this is not to paint a gloomy long-term picture for the global construction economy. As RICS’ and Autodesk’s Future of Work in Construction report states, 13,000 buildings, along with their supporting infrastructures, need to be built every day to meet growing global demand. Economies and governments hit by the impacts of the health pandemic will look to the construction sector to help stimulate the economy again through the building of the homes, health facilities, and infrastructure we need.

A pivot point for the construction industry

I think in 2020 we are at a pivot point for society and construction. That which seemed set for the future will be expedited as lockdown and reopening of communities facilitates a new focus and agility on aspects such as technological advancement, modern methods of construction. We will also see a greater awareness and desire to redress the sustainable impacts of the built environment through the carbon impacts of the construction process itself coupled with carbon emissions from buildings.  Building and construction are responsible for 39% of global carbon emissions, of which operational emissions (from energy) account for 28%.

This additional impetus is set against a context of construction delivery that is set to change through Industrialized Construction (IC). IC is a system that utilises and combines attributes from Building Information Modelling (BIM) and the Common Data Environment (CDE), together with design through 5D CAD and digital twins. It embraces the five key mega trends: 

(i) Big data, AI, & predictive analytics
(ii) Robotics and automation
(iii) Prefabrication and offsite construction
(iv) The Internet of Things
(v) Additive manufacturing techniques. 

Given the socio-economic and technological drivers, the Future of Work in Construction report highlights the cross-industry consensus for the growing use and potential of IC; indeed, McKinsey  suggests the annual volume of IC could reach more than $130 billion by 2030 in Europe and the US alone.

New skill requirements for a new landscape

What this means is that many of the future skills requirements will be more adaptive and digitally-focused.  Combine this with a greater selective awareness around the ESG agenda by the next generation, and construction could become the ‘go to’ profession for developing, designing and constructing the communities of the future.  Construction will need to adapt and attract people from a different background such as strategists, cognitive and systems thinkers, data analysts and data scientists, digital operatives and robotic programmers. 

Construction will need to adapt and attract people from a different background such as strategists, cognitive and systems thinkers, data analysts and data scientists, digital operatives and robotic programmers.

We will also see demand for more socially-orientated skills, with the ESG agenda driving an orientation to sustainability in construction design and manufacturing techniques, as well as more people-centric skill base. This will mean new types of team, new roles and new skills for existing roles, which need to be sought from the best talent available - meaning we need to also adapt to creating a real focus on attracting those from a more diverse and inclusive background.

The result will not only be safer, efficient, more rapid and more cost-effective construction, but also a sector that becomes more appealing for talent acquisition, including in a broader range of skills outlined. What is exciting is that data will become the liquid gold to future improvements in the design, construction and operation of our buildings as building become smarter, more digitally enabled and more intelligent in servicing not only the functions within them, but most importantly creating the places and spaces where people want to be. All we need now is to attract, develop and retain the talent to deliver it.

Amanda Clack FRICS

Amanda Clack FRICS

Past President 2016/17

London, UK

Amanda Clack FRICS was RICS President from June 2016 until November 2017. Amanda is an Executive Director — Head of Strategic Consulting and a member of the UK Board at CBRE. She works across the business with public and private sector clients to deliver major strategic consultancy projects.

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