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Skills for a Digital Age – Embracing Digital Construction

digital skillsSkills have once again taken a starring role in our thoughts for the future of our industry as it finds itself the hot topic in Mark Farmer’s report ‘Modernise or Die’.

An ongoing issue that has troubled construction for a number of years, we find ourselves with a burning platform for change requiring us to reconsider our approach to skills in our industry and the way we look at and consider our future skills requirements.

This year at Buildings BIM show live I get to be part of this conversation.

As part of a panel discussion, we will be asked to discuss what our thoughts are on how to ‘Leverage skills to put BIM (and digital construction) at the heart of your business’.

This is a subject I’ve spoken about and blogged about a few times and my view now is no different to what it has been for several years.

Considering Digital construction as a wider theme, we see a range of enabling technologies that when utilised properly can improve productivity, quality, reduce cost and time whilst increasing value for all. However, we should  never forget the importance of the people that use the technology.

Collaboration is a term so often used but rarely properly undertaken in our industry.  For BIM and digital technology more generally, the correct culture becomes much more important to enable effective implementation.

What is clear is our education and training provisions are not providing the next generation with enough of the softer skills required, but also, are not flexible enough in their core syllabus when technology is changing and advancing at such a rate. Your three-year course could teach you fundamentals that are quickly outdated by technological advances.

Like Brexit, digital construction is, at times the subject of scaremongering.  One such topic that is often put forward is how embracing technology will lead to mass job losses. This is something I cannot see happening.

If you look at two other industries better known for embracing technology (medical and automotive) you see industries that employ more not less because of technological innovation.

Operating theatre

Consider a modern operating theatre. Where once you would have a Doctor, possibly a nurse and a bag full of tools, you now have multiple doctors and nurses and kit that will have required a large number of people to build it in the first place.

The automotive industry is the same, through embracing automation and robotics within the production line, the industry can create a higher level of output, create a higher quality product that requires more people now than ever before.

If a robot or drone can undertake a role that a site operative is currently undertaking, the operative will need a different skill set (to operate the robot) but will be undertaking the job in a safer more controlled manner than before.

At a recent event I attended, Peter Schwartz a well-known futurologists, relayed a similar message where he discussed how technology will alter the role of a truck driver. In the future, a truck driver through automated vehicles and Virtual Reality will be able to drive 5 trucks at once. His input primarily required to oversee the smooth running of operations. Although there are 4 less truck drivers, a much more productive industry will have a greater logistics management requirement, and factories/warehouses will require additional people to manage higher levels of inputs and outputs.

The digital revolution is on its way, it can not be avoided and construction should embrace it or external disruptors will enter our industry and make it happen without us.

More information about BuildingLive and details on how to register can be found here

If you would like to discuss how future skills will impact your business and how you can be at the front of the revolution please get in touch at or on 07961071166

Ben Pritchard

Ben joined invennt from Magnox Ltd where as a Framework manager in the Nuclear Decommissioning sector he led the procurement and commercial management of a range of frameworks and projects covering demolition, new construction, refurbishment and retrieval, processing and conditioning of waste.

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