What skills are needed to drive digital transformation in construction?

It is almost as if the construction industry is scrambling to find the panacea that will turn around its fortunes. Amid all the headlines forecasting doom and gloom with regards to Brexit, and reports highlighting less than impressive output, digital transformation consistently comes up as a suggested solution to the industry’s problems. But is it?

While technology holds a great deal of promise, it should be remembered that it is merely an enabler, or tool. In order for it to have a real impact on the industry what is really needed is the skills and expertise to be able to apply it to the industry in the right way in order to drive positive outcomes.

And therein lies the challenge. Where will these skills come from? What is the industry doing to develop these skills or to attract expertise from other sectors?

Skills investment

Government has promised funding for skills development and industry bodies such as CITB are rolling out campaigns to promote research, funding and influence with regards to new technologies and associated skills. But ultimately, if these skills and technologies are to become mainstream within the construction industry it will mean that main contractors need to bite the bullet and start investing in them.

Currently operating on shoestring margins, contractors are caught in a catch 22. Do they reinvest what little profit they have in technology, on the belief that it can help them turnaround their fortunes? Or do they hold off until they have more in the pot and the case for new technology is proven?

On the other side of the argument, some may say BIM and OSM have been around for years, what more proof is needed? And if they don’t start investing in the required skills today, contractors won’t be able to remain competitive in the marketplace.

A New Generation

It’s been suggested that one of the ways to stimulated tech skills in construction is to make more effort to showcase the opportunities where technology can be applied in the industry. As the younger generation is attracted to the opportunity for innovation this could be a key driver for developing tech skills within the industry.

Attracting engineering, robotics, programming and data analytics expertise from other related sectors could be another way to stimulate the development of technology in construction. And as more players step up it may be possible for the skills drive to gain momentum.