Blog series 1: Major obstacles facing the construction industry – Training

It is no secret that the construction industry is experiencing a skills shortage, as 22% of the workforce are over the age of 50. Millennials are being encouraged to focus on education and are pushed towards university. Due to their investment in their education, there is an expectation to start higher and progress faster, which creates tension between them and older, experienced workers in the industry.

For the first time in history, the workforce is spread over 4 generations; the traditionalists, the baby boomers, generation X and the millennials. Each generation bringing their own perspectives and learning styles, with differences in communication, change management and technical skills. Additionally, generational stereotypes prevent people from different age groups from working together to arrive at solutions. It is important that these generational differences can be put aside, so that individuals can help the industry with their best characteristics. For example, the technological understanding possessed by the millennials, and the industry knowledge held by the older generations that can only be gained from years of experience in the industry.

Often, recruitment companies have to turn workers away because they do not hold the correct qualifications to complete a job. Although there are a vast number of training programmes, it can be complicated and confusing choosing the correct one. Additionally, they can be expensive and hard to get onto.

The end result of this, of course, is poor productivity and profitability. As construction projects become more complicated and demanding, companies struggle to keep up partly due to not having enough labour. This forces firms to be selective in what projects they undertake to avoid date slippage and going over budget.

As more construction jobs go unfilled, the implementation of robotics to provide relief is looking more attractive than ever. As well as relieving the strain posed by the lack of workers, robots could improve accuracy, productivity and efficiency of projects. However, there are concerns that the use of robots as a substitute for labour could have consequences on traditional management jobs in construction and income. There are also fears that introducing robotics to the construction industry could lead to a take-over, putting more people than ever out of work.

There could be a solution utilising robots and humans in the workforce of the construction industry. Investment in relationships and talents by firms could attract more school leavers, apprentices and graduates than ever if done correctly. Companies could do this by offering summer jobs to allow students to gain experience and have an insight into what a career in the industry could be like. Offering more apprenticeships and interacting with universities and colleges could also entice more young people to consider the field. This also works for existing skilled labour, in that they could be introduced to different areas of construction whilst they work.

Fundamentally, it is the commitment to training individuals up in the right areas that is going to tackle the skills shortage. Using robots in addition to the investment in human relationships could bring further benefit, and allow the construction industry to expand, rather than replacing humans entirely. The workforce is the centre of the construction industry, and it is critical that companies use all resources they have available to them to preserve and maintain it.

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