Tech on Jobsite Yields Safety and Respect
Labor shortages have been a persistent problem for the construction industry over the past decade. Supply chain challenges have consumed headlines—and builders—but labor remains the greatest threat to the long-term health of the construction industry. The issue of labor is complex, with an aging workforce, a dwindling supply of experienced workers and a lack of diversity, all compounding the problem of an overall lack of available personnel to fill this role.
Exacerbating the issue, the construction industry is at war with its reputation. Most perceive the industry to be one of a blue-collar, physically arduous, uneducated and technology-averse environment. When placing blame, the responsibility falls on the education establishment, media and government agencies continuously force-feeding the idea that jobs involving a computer and a college education are inherently more valuable than trade-related positions. As a result, trade coursework has been eliminated from most educational institutions.
It’s a systemic issue that won’t easily be solved. The industry is constantly faced with cyclical inconsistencies, driven by macro decisions made by the Federal Reserve and misguided government policies that have encouraged over-speculation in the real estate market. If the industry is withstanding unpredictable highs and lows, the same is true for its employees, making it extremely difficult for skilled workers to find and maintain personal and financial stability.
Construction is dependent on the health of the economy, and in an effort to control costs, project tasks are now being broken down into smaller components, so the required skill set for the average tradesperson is reduced. Now there’s not as great of a need for individuals that possess greater knowledge of a particular construction discipline, thus eliminating opportunities for career advancement or development.
While there is always room for improvement, the construction industry has extremely dedicated and outcome-focused people with far more potential than they typically receive credit for. To scratch the surface, there needs to be targeted training and upskilling available to these individuals. Technology and competition are driving changes in the industry, forcing everyone to adapt and get more comfortable with change. Integrated platforms over silo applications are proving to provide greater efficiency and ROI, which ultimately helps companies manage change by using one platform instead of various applications.
With safety a top priority and concern for anyone working on a jobsite, it raises another important question: How are we best supporting these individuals? There are unavoidable odds, consistent exposure to the elements and use of dangerous equipment that must be top of mind when acknowledging labor shortages in the industry. Safety training and content designed for specialty trades provide additional mitigation for employers and the workforce—all of which can be accessed via a mobile device.
Faced with poor retention rates due to limited career growth opportunities, inconsistencies in job availability, negative public perception and genuine safety concerns, technology is a one-stop-shop solution to redirect some of these trends. While it’s not a guaranteed solution, the industry will benefit greatly from continued improvements in technology and training that enable operation teams and foremen to stay informed, safe and on schedule.
Given the lack of resources available on any jobsite, whether that be lack of connection or team members who lack a specific skill to complete a task efficiently and effectively, access to educational materials and training onsite (and offline) would have a huge impact on the development of these skilled tradespeople. Oftentimes language barriers result in communication roadblocks that could be easily avoided with multilingual content or translation capabilities.
Unforeseen issues take place on a daily basis, carrying the potential to slow down a project or even result in injury. Imagine if there were technological resources or applications available in real time that could generate specific solutions for a problem or setback. The learning that could take place for that individual or team is invaluable, not to mention the profitable advantage of punctuality for a builder.
It’s not a matter of if but rather how great the need for advanced technology is in the construction industry. From job safety and quality control to AI software that can predict the potential for error and offer corrections or avoidance tactics, these resources—already available to so many other industries and organizations—can elevate the skilled construction worker as well as the industry as a whole. Construction is no less skilled than any other career and a vital industry to our overall economy. It’s one that deserves universal respect and technological advancement.