Laura Black
Laura BlackEditor

It Takes a Village

The phrase often refers to raising a child, but is so apropos in the construction industry today. It takes a village of architects, engineers, subs, GCs (general contractors), and owners to construct homes, buildings, cities, and infrastructure.

Now that these structures are becoming smarter, every single participant within the project needs to work together in tandem to ensure success. I realize that is easy for me to type, but much more challenging to put into practice in construction.

Interoperability is a big hurdle in the office, at the construction jobsite, across all participants of a project team, and throughout the lifecycle of a facility. This is why, more than ever before, the industry needs skilled craft to help complete the job.

This comes at perhaps one of the worst times. As most construction companies are experiencing every single day, there is a skilled labor shortage in the industry. This is leading many construction companies to hire anyone who can swing a hammer. I recently had a conversation with Gary Glader of Horton Safety Consultants who challenged this philosophy. He believes construction companies still need to focus on hiring the right people, even amid a labor shortage.

This is perhaps where technology can help fill in the gaps. Technology can help take the strain off workers—literally. It can fill in for some of the skilled labor. Today we see robotics emerging that can help with bricklaying, welding, and other trades. We see BIM (building information modeling), asset and equipment management, GPS (global positioning system), GIS (geographic information system), and service management continue to take off both in the office and at the jobsite.

We see tried-and-true software for project management, scheduling, accounting and job costing, HR (human resource), bidding and estimating, collaboration, document management, and sales and CRM (customer-relationship management) continue to offer real value to construction.

At the end of the day, I believe one of the biggest opportunities to solve the skilled labor shortage lies with the IoT (Internet of Things). It is a “big” phrase that can often be hard for contractors and builders to wrap their arms around, but it is very simply this: the realtime exchange of data. This can help make decisions. This can streamline business processes. Machines are becoming smarter. Big data and machine learning offer big opportunities to contractors in 2018. Now, might be the time to consider how you might harness this power for your business.

I encourage you to flip through this issue. Contributor Sandra Guy did a great job uncovering how big data and machine learning can help construction companies in the months ahead in this issue’s Take-Offs article. Also, this month’s outlook feature dives deep into the skilled labor shortage, helping contractors understand how tech can help. It is a theme you will be reading about all year long. Our objective is to keep your jobsites humming. We are your one-stop source for how technology can help do just that in 2018.

… more than ever before, the industry needs skilled craft to help complete the job.

Peggy Smedley
Peggy SmedleyEditorial Director

Skilled Labor and Infrastructure

If you are in construction these two topics are without a doubt foremost on your mind these days. In fact, you can expect to read a lot about this subject matter on the pages on Constructech throughout 2018. What’s more, we will take you—and every construction firm—down a road of discovery and hopefully recovery—to finding better and more efficient ways to improving your construction organization in the year ahead.

The first part of that recovery begins with finding and hiring the best skilled workforce for the construction industry. Even President Trump is focusing on the skilled labor shortage. As part of his infrastructure plan, the President says one way to make America ready for the future is to create a workforce training initiative that is focused on skilled-based apprenticeship education. Simply, that means targeting one million apprentices in two years.

It’s clear that transformative ideas take transformative thinking to solve the chronic labor shortage that is plaguing the construction industry. Policymakers, educators, and the construction industry must work together to encourage the next generation of the many potential career opportunities and to erase the misperceptions that are currently beleaguering the industry.

In addition, it also means recognizing that the skills gap is complex. It exists for many reasons and requires great effort to address it. We must look to our past to take those lessons learned to recognize the problem extends beyond just filling positions.

Many of you are turning down construction projects because you can’t fill the jobs you have or that qualified candidates are just not available. There is no question that available positions are disappearing as a result of technology and advanced solutions.

But that additionally means companies and policymakers need to collaborate to encourage education, workplace partnerships, and training. Only when industry and community come together at all levels will change happen.