Using Technology to Overcome the Labor Shortage Pt. 3

by | Mar 13, 2020 | All, Electrical, Mechanical

This is the third installment in the eVolve MEP blog series, Overcoming the Skilled Labor Shortage.

About a third of my high school classmates took jobs in the construction industry. Since the early 1980s, fewer and fewer people can say that. In the eVolve MEP blog article, “Help Wanted: Dirty, Difficult, Dead-end Job,” we recall that a career in construction was considered respectable, and it paid well. That’s not as common of a career sentiment these days.

Slowly at first, then by leaps and bounds, computers became essential for businesses to stay competitive. As technology became ingrained in nearly every aspect of our work and home lives, more and more graduates took an interest in careers using technology. And I’m not talking about laser levels or framing nailers. Construction was out; tech was in. During the same era, economic slowdowns may have curtailed new construction, but they didn’t stop people from remodeling their homes. So job demand stayed high, while interest in those jobs dropped. Even if no one retired or moved on from the residential or commercial sectors, the train wreck of a construction labor shortage was bound to happen.

Skilled Labor

A 2018 survey conducted by the Association of General Contractors and Autodesk found that 80% of contractors were having trouble filling skilled labor positions. There are an incredible number of specialty skills required in construction: framer, roofer, concrete work, heavy equipment, finish carpentry, HVAC, cabinetry, plumbing, drywall, masonry, electrician, and more. According to a June, 2019 Public School Review article, 36% of the top fastest growing careers – including carpentry, electrical and HVAC – could be pursued with vocational training, practical learning and hands on experience, as described in part two of this series, “How You Can Develop the Skilled Labor You Need Inhouse.” If performed on the job, that training can include integration of digital technologies into a company’s work process.

Another AGC article, “Confronting the Labor Shortage Crisis in Construction,” explains AGC initiatives to encourage and assist companies in adopting technology in order to alleviate the effects of that skilled labor shortage, including digital tools and cloud computing and collaboration.

BIM and Tech

Building information modeling (BIM) is perhaps the most important tech advancement in design-build and is already having a positive effect on the industry – both financially and with schedule performance – bringing improvements in estimating, scheduling, real-time design updates, problem solving, data protection, and clash detection. Anyone who has learned CAD first and then tried to reprogram their brain to use Revit can tell you, it would have been easier to learn Revit right off the bat. This is a useful scenario considering the tech-savvy prospective employees entering the workforce. In addition, there are emerging technologies that can be combined with BIM to enhance construction careers.

The geek-mindset that brought us the 8-bit Pac-Man arcade game somehow matured into developers of trending technologies that can supplement BIM: virtual and augmented reality, 3D laser scanning, AI, the Internet of Things, synchronized databases, 3D printing, robotics, wearable innovations, mobile devices, and cloud collaboration – all of which can appeal to a younger workforce. With the technology currently available and more on the horizon, construction jobs are already safer, more organized and more productive.

Blue Collar

What about that “blue collar” tarnish on the construction industry that seems to repel prospective employees? For more about how this perception problem affects attracting new talent, tune into the Applied Software Bridging the Gap Podcast with Brett Stacks.

The face of modern construction is changing, and technology is at the forefront of that facelift. Employees are needed to fly those drones. They are needed to program the 3D printer and the robotic equipment. They can comfortably put virtual reality to use on the job. While my baby-boomer cohorts and I consider these developments novel and nifty, millennials, Generation Y and Gen-Z workers can actually use them productively.

In addition, in using collaborative software, cooperation takes place among design and construction teams. Construction projects become less frustrating, and employees can engage in and actually enjoy their work – something that has become an issue for the incoming workforce. Although it’s a universal joke that people hate their jobs, that was likely founded on the grain of truth that any job can be frustrating and cause employees to disengage, perhaps construction more than most because of its many moving parts, tight schedules and life-and-death implications. Yet, it is human nature that employees want to like what they do for one-third of their life, and absent the frustration, they can. With the plethora of tech advancements geared toward construction, the construction industry now has more opportunities to make job-engagement a reality and solve its skilled labor crisis at the same time. 

If technology is your ticket out of the labor shortage, contact eVolve MEP today and learn how to take your company’s work process to the next level. The people of eVolve MEP have worked in the construction industry, so they know the challenges you face and the technology that can make a positive impact.

Series Navigation<< How You Can Develop the Skilled Labor You Need In-house Pt. 2Bringing MEP Skills Back to Schools (pt. 4) >>

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