The construction industry, as an entity right now, is in limbo. It seems that there’s a lack of engagement, and while there are major issues with individual companies, namely the Dawnus firm based in the UK, the notion of bankruptcy or administration is a very real threat. But what can be a major struggle for the modern construction business is a lack of engagement across the board. What are the problems the construction industry is facing right now, and what can be done to solve these problems?
The Skills Gap
Right now, due to the baby boomer generation retiring, the roles they originally performed are not being filled. This means that there is a lack of engagement with the younger contingent. The millennial generations aren’t entirely practical, and as their education consisted of computers, and an over-reliance on technology as a means to an income, this results in the practical career choices struggling to fill the gap. This isn’t exclusively to the construction industry, in fact, the vast majority of practical careers, from electricians, the telephone engineers, as well as plumbing suppliers, all struggle. Apprenticeships appear to be working well with filling this gap, but the construction industry is crying out for the vacated roles to be filled by younger, more nubile workers. The importance of tackling this isn’t about grabbing them as soon as they finish their education, but it’s about striking early on in life. A lot of the issues appear to be a lack of knowledge of the construction industry. After all, it’s a very lucrative career choice. Not just in terms of the site leaders, but other roles, from an employee and contractor perspective, are very well paid. Any team of engineers out there brought in to improve a project are compensated well, and with engineering and construction administrative roles in abundance as well, the answer appears to be in highlighting what the construction industry can do for people as a career choice. It seems to have not been represented fairly to the younger generations.
Caught Between The Past And The Future…
Technology is vital to improving every industry right now, but the construction industry appears to be very slow on the upkeep. What appears to be a reticence to adopting the latest technologies and concepts leaves many start-up firms lagging behind. Telematics, Virtual Reality, the Internet of Things, and even drones are being used in some areas to highlight what can be done for the construction industry. Drone technology is being harnessed to capture 3D information, that is integrated with BIM (Business Information Modeling) systems, to create a representation of projects as a vital blueprint. Not only is it beneficial for the actual construction, but it’s making the environment a safer one. Virtual reality has been shown to improve workers’ skills by training them in a safe environment. When you factor in technology like robots, that can take on the more arduous tasks, this should increase productivity across the board.
Struggles With Productivity
While the market is crying out for new workers, it’s still an oversaturated market. In one respect, this means the better businesses stay successful, there are still issues in productivity despite the other saturation. The four major areas that impact worker productivity are travel time to the location, break times, implementing a plan to carry out the work, and the waiting time for raw materials and essential equipment. As the supply chains are directly responsible for the latter, it’s not just the workers that suffer, but the business loses profitability, and as such, the workers underperform, through no fault of their own, and the inevitable layoffs occur. Technology can help with this, but there needs to be more of an investment into the potential of what technology can do.
The most cliched perception of the construction industry is that it’s all hard hats and no proper safety equipment. While construction is one of the most dangerous occupations you can get involved in, this results in expensive insurance policies as well as numerous payouts in compensation should there be an accident. In terms of the ongoing regulatory procedures, the reins are being tightened evermore so, which puts the business leaders under additional pressure. The one real solution to this is to develop stricter safety procedures and ensure that teams follow them to the letter. As such, nurturing the younger breed of workers to become more safety conscious and make career choices in regulatory arenas can be a way to provide a safe culture.
The construction industry can be a very wasteful arena, and as consumers become more aware of their own personal impact on the planet, this can feed into clients, entrepreneurs, and business leaders that work with the construction industry to be more considerate in how they spend. As such, this causes financial strains on the construction business that’s been chosen but is also an extra hurdle for them to jump over. As it’s more about choosing the client that is less wasteful and more environmentally conscious, this becomes the main selling point. As sustainability is the word on everyone’s lips, construction businesses have to be diverse in how they promote themselves, but also ensure that their carbon footprint is front and center of their promotional tactics.
The construction industry faces numerous problems. You could argue that it’s an oversaturated market in one respect, but as the baby boomer generation is retiring, and they’re not being replaced, this could very much cause consternation in the industry in 20 years time. Likewise, with technology improving so much, and the lack of investment in it, this may prove to fill the skills gap. But this means more investment is required. So what is the answer? Is it about focusing on one problem area, or is it about making a concerted effort to tackle all of them? After all, money is such a problem for many industries, not just the construction industry, the future can look quite bleak. On the other hand, if the infrastructure is to improve, and we are to progress, investment is vital. However, it looks like this is not going to happen anytime soon. In the meantime, engaging with the younger generations to change the perception of the construction industry could help to save the industry just in time.