Where did all the skilled labor go? Changing the construction landscape.

Where did all the skilled labor go? Changing the construction landscape.

Industrywide skilled labor shortages and transformative technologies have changed the construction landscape and the options are to innovate or become obsolete.

The Manpower Group publishes the talent shortage survey every year and in 2018 talent shortages reached a 12-year high. In the United States alone, 46% of employers are not able to fill their open positions. While the talent shortage epidemic is continuing to reach new heights, bursting onto the scene are new job opportunities like: Big Data Specialists, User Experience and Culture Experts, Interaction Designers, Robotics Engineers and Blockchain Specialists. Emerging professions like those mentioned above are dominating the new frontier of possibilities for the educated, ever growing middle class and is now leaving behind the skilled trades of yester year.

Who wouldn’t want to be a Big Data Specialist, come on? I am kidding, but all joking aside this leap into uncharted career waters has created a gaping hole in tradesman that have made a living for centuries in the construction and building space. We have seen such a decline in the labor force that as construction professionals we have had to completely re-think our go-to-market strategies and continually enhance and innovate our solutions.

Drivers of change.

In the latest World Economic Forum (WEF) future of jobs 2018 release there were four specific areas identified in which technological advancements are completely turning the job landscape upside down. Those include ubiquitous high-speed mobile internet, artificial intelligence, widespread adoption of big data analytics and cloud technology. Most of these technologies are not trends or fads, they are products and services that have a profound effect on the way in which we interact and communicate with one another every single day.

We can also look at the socio-economic trends of the future and it is not hard to uncover that there is an increasingly large talent pool of educated individuals that yearn to be a part of this wave of new careers. Because of these reasons and the fact that schools for the last 30 years or so have put little emphasis on encouraging skilled construction trades there is less of a desire to enter the skilled or craft tradesman workforce. We have entered a day and age where new employment opportunities and advancing industry ventures are created faster than traditional professions can become obsolete, examples like mail carriers, librarians, fast food cooks and travel agents.

Another driver of change within the skilled trade professions and discussion of hot topic centers around the stigma associated with professional trade work. Graduating high schoolers in recent years have been taught that the well-paying and often highly stable jobs are those that come out of earning a college degree. Is that truly the case though?

Contrary to popular belief, high school graduates destined to earn four-year college degrees often come out of college with significantly higher debt/income ratios and it is not uncommon for college graduates to earn less than their trade school counterparts during the first few years of employment. Additionally, skilled trades work requires training, apprenticeships, two-year associate degrees and further developmental education all the while receiving compensation for their efforts. Our school systems have not fully addressed the misperception that surrounds the professional trade industry and in turn most high school graduates fail to see all the benefits that come with pursuing a career in the trade fields.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution.

If you go back in history and look at the first two industrial revolutions, you will find that those civilizations were modernized by manual workers producing goods and services with their bodies to advance the greater good of their perspective societies. Now, review the last (Third) and most current revolutions (Fourth) and you can see that the advancements and the most profound disruptions in human history have come from that transition from using our bodies to using our minds.

Most folks do not realize the impact that Artificial Intelligence has on their ever day lives and will continue to have. Think about an improved quality of life at home, work and play due to innovations with robotics and automation that give us the freedom to worry less about agriculture, our power grid and physical infrastructure. Ultimately, our need to be forever and always connected to our things through the invention of the Internet and the more recently coined “Internet of Things” (IoT). The Fourth Industrial Revolution paradigm shift has completely altered the way we produce goods and services and we believe will continue to innovate and push the boundaries of what was traditionally done by manual labor.

A new(er) pathway to construction success.

While these ideas may seem like they negatively impact the construction community, the skilled labor availability and our economy it paves the way for innovation and advancement within the design and construction business. Technologies like Virtual Design and Construction, BIM in 5,6 and 7D, Artificial Intelligence as well as off-site and modular construction incorporates components of the new job frontier that will make the construction profession that much more sought after in the future.

Incorporating these transformative technologies and others into the construction landscape to help fill the gap of skilled and craft tradesman will continue to grow. As a result, it will also aide in the reduction of human error and onsite risk.