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2020 and Beyond: Required Skills for the Future of Construction

2020 is just over the horizon. As a new year dawns, decision-makers across our industry are looking to enact new techniques that will help deliver a more profitable future.

While the technologies tipped to revolutionise construction are often discussed, we don’t hear quite so much about the skills and training that must also evolve. Industry-wide abilities and roles will shift significantly in the future, and it’s integral that we’re well-prepared to capitalise on new digital opportunities.

Earlier in 2019, the UK’s Construction Leadership Council put forward a comprehensive Future Skills Report, which can be downloaded in full here. The document was released following extensive consultation with a wide range of government and industry bodies, client organisations and tertiary institutions.

While the report refers specifically to the UK industry, the conclusions drawn are globally relevant given the status of the United Kingdom as a forerunner for construction. This blog will summarise the primary findings put forward in the Future Skills Report, including the four vital skill categories that the CLC believe are key to brighter industry prospects.

Findings of the Future Skills Report

The CLC’s research shows there is a clear mandate for change when it comes to skills in the UK industry. Approximately 30 per cent of the construction contracting workforce is expected to retire within the next decade, and current business models will become unsustainable without a shift in thinking.
The in-depth report calls for three headline actions to set a positive future trajectory.

  1. Clients should adhere to a code of employment where project contributors are directly employed. This action would empower companies to further train their staff and reap the productivity benefits.
  2. An environment that encourages Smart Construction methods should be preserved throughout project lifecycles. This would allow companies to confidently invest in training for Smart Construction workflows.
  3. Industry training and qualifications should evolve and adopt Smart Construction workflows and behaviours to unify our fragmented industry.

The report places necessary skills for the future in four different categories, as shown below.

Digital Skills

We’ve spoken before about the Fourth Industrial Revolution, and how it will impact construction as we move forward. Put simply, wide-scale technological advents represent a huge opportunity for construction, and decision-makers will have no choice but to re-examine the way they do business.

Professionals of the future must be digitally literate. These skills are particularly vital for managers and executives, whether they are guiding contractors, consultants or other staff in the supply chain. In a world where technology, software and capital equipment are growing in prominence, it’s integral that digital training is appropriate and consistently updated.

Technical Skills

Advances in modular construction, automation and digital technology will result in the need for new technical skills. We can expect assembly, installation and coordination tasks to be more prominent in future construction, with complex logistical requirements needing to be met. As a result, these technicians must be multi-skilled and able to operate in a variety of different environments.

Providing new and existing professionals with the requisite technical skills is a challenge that training providers will need to rise to. Industry bodies must coordinate across institutional boundaries to create useful qualifications and upskilling routes.

Collaborative Skills

Speaking of collaboration, professionals of the future must be able to coordinate and rely upon their peers when working together. A lack of collaboration is cited as a primary reason for current industry inefficiency, with traditional project models not conducive to innovative solutions.

The Skills Report finds that the industry needs to promote ‘non-technical skills and performance-enhancing behaviours’, alongside the other skills listed. Construction worksites can be adversarial environments, and work readiness schemes must keep developing to support those entering the industry.

Educational providers will need to consider such schemes as part of all qualifications.

Traditional Skills

There is a common perception that traditional construction skills will fall by the wayside as our industry evolves, but this won’t necessarily be the case. It’s integral that we preserve our existing built environment assets, and there is scope to augment traditional methods with innovative solutions to help achieve this.

Many small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in construction will continue to use traditional project delivery methods. The Construction Leadership Council noted in the report that access to funding and innovation hubs will be vital for SMEs moving forward. We’re looking to drive deep industry change, and it’s critical that those willing to innovative have access to the skills and knowledge necessary to do so.

The Construction Leadership Council works between industry bodies and government to help lead transformation across the UK industry. You can find out more about the scope of the CLC on their website.

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