Today’s skilled labor shortage in the construction industry is impacting almost every type of business. The preliminary numbers of November 2017 show that 6.9 million workers were employed in the industry which is significantly lower from its peak in 2007 (according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics). The BSL reports that the total job openings in all industries have been at near high records since June and by October of 2017, job openings increased in construction by 48,000. This brought the total number of job openings in construction to 227,000. The lack of skilled workers and increasing number of job openings will affect the construction industry in a number of different ways. Wages are expected to increase while project timelines may need to be extended which will cost construction companies time and money. Fortunately, this does not have to be case due to some today’s technology solutions. Technology can help with the skilled labor shortage in a multitude of ways. Technology can gather data, provide insight into how processes work and help create safer and more productive work environments.
The worker shortage is affecting people from every generation. From the baby boomer to the millennial, understanding how different generations work and think will play a critical role in implementing new and emerging technologies.
Baby Boomers: this generation is has a history of being loyal to their careers and employers. Born between 1946 and 1964, baby boomers are known to have a strong sense of work ethic. Baby boomers are the least likely to adopt to technology.
Generation X: Born between 1965 and 1980, Generation X’s tend to be more conservative and cautious while also working smarter. This generation is more likely to assimilate to technology.
Millennials: Born between 1981 and 2000, this is the first generation to grow up in the digital age. Millennials are usually ambitious and are more likely to multitask but may not be focused. They are less career oriented and always looking toward change. They are most likely to use their technology resources.
Generation Z: Generation Z are those born after 2000. They tend to think more like a baby boomer than a millennial and focus on savings, debt, and retirement. This is also known as the “throwback generation.”
In order for industries to more forward, it is important that everyone from each generation brings technology and its processes together. Understanding how each generation works and thinks is critical when carrying out technology services. One example of how people from different generations are coming together for technology purposes is exemplified by Suffolk Construction. Since 2010, Suffolk has been working on the Build Smart vision- a plan to bring different ways of planning and control and incorporating lean principles and innovative technologies. With this vision, Suffolk launched Smart Labs which identifies, tests and scales new technologies. Smart Lab aims to empower project teams and explore innovative tools and technologies for their clients. Some of these technologies include data wall, huddlewall, virtual reality CAVE and jobsite feeds. These are all interactive technologies which is expected to help with the skilled labor shortage. These types of innovations will allow construction to increase technology and productivity.
Bechtel, a San Francisco based company, recognized the construction industry’s slow pace in technology adoption. The company established Future Fund to help provide innovative solutions such as wearable devices, mobile work stations and virtual reality applications. These solutions will ensure that the right resources get to the right person at precisely the right time
The diversity of generations creates a unique cultural climate that can be beneficial for many industries. In order for younger generations to join the industry, businesses need to create an innovative and safe industry. One solution to maintaining a safe industry is wearable safety technology, which can help track people on job sites. Lettire Construction uses this technology for monitoring the manpower and workforce statuses. Their particular system operates on a closed mesh network that cuts through steel and concrete that automatically clocks workers on the worksite through network hardware and wearable sensors clipped to their belts. The result is greater visibility, improved communication and safety and less time spent on tracking down information. Wearable safety technology helps Lettire comply with jobsite regulations and stream evacuation procedures and help with proactive risk management. This is just one example of the cultural shift that is changing the way construction companies do business.
2018 and the upcoming years will be unlike the previous years when it comes to labor and technology. The diverse mix of generations along with the labor shortage makes technology the solution for these situations. Technology, data and analytics provide the office and jobsite with safety and productivity benefits. Understanding data will help prevent accidents and prevent safety hazards from occurring in the first place. Companies are concerned with the skilled labor shortage and its potential to fill jobsites with anybody that isn’t necessarily qualified. It important that construction companies employ the right people despite the labor shortage, to prevent accidents. For now, we can confidently rely on advanced technological solutions to move our businesses and industries forward.