The robots are coming – but people are still key to our future
With so many headlines, films and social media conversations shouting, “The robots are coming!” it’s hard to ignore the implication that one day, machines will replace the entire human workforce and we will all sit twiddling our thumbs.
Whether or not the robots are indeed on their way – and some are already here – the primary ingredient to making the future as bright as possible is still people.
From defining and challenging technological boundaries to designing new materials or processes, people are vital to the future of every industry. The pressure is on, then, to position construction as a sought-after career that attracts the best talent.
On paper, construction should be an industry of choice for our talented school, college or university leavers. It offers a myriad of opportunities to people with all levels of experience and a diverse range of skills. From roads and railways to homes, concert halls and offices, construction is ubiquitous, varied and fundamental to society. There are so many careers within the industry – the average construction project requires teams of highly-skilled women and men using digital, robotic, project management, logistics, materials and building technologies to deliver on a blueprint which itself has months, sometimes years, of in-depth design, reporting and production behind it.
Furthermore, tomorrow’s construction workforce will be using tools and materials we haven’t even invented yet – what bright young school kid wouldn’t want to be a part of that? Yet despite these exciting truths, we are struggling with an ongoing skills shortage, failing to attract enough talent – especially women – to meet demand both now and for the future.
We need to act now if we want to ensure a strong and growing construction sector. This will require increasing our efforts to attract future workers, who will need to be well-trained, agile, innovative, creative and technologically adept. We must also ensure that employers are equipped to train and develop their workforces as technology evolves.
At the Construction Scotland Innovation Centre (CSIC), we have been working with industry partners to help businesses look towards the future with a dedicated mix of support, funding and training opportunities. For some, this is as simple as free training around digital technologies such as Building Information Modelling (BIM). For others it could involve trialling entirely new technologies alongside the need to attract skilled labour.
To encourage future talent, our recent postgraduate MSc Programme supported 16 Masters-level students across Scotland to prepare for a career in construction by aligning their research projects to the challenges of a modernising construction sector. One student’s research found that using lightweight aggregate in concrete design could extend the lifespan of concrete structures by making them less susceptible to damage caused by freezing and thawing. This could reduce construction costs while also having a lower environmental impact.
Companies wishing to engage the future workforce must ensure that they themselves are at the cutting edge of technology. This has the additional benefit of helping them remain competitive and perhaps even unleashing latent innovation from within their ranks. However, the high costs of new equipment and materials can often mean that trialling new ways of working is either unattractive or impossible. Thankfully, we have just the remedy.
Our state-of-the-art Innovation Factory offers anyone within the industry the opportunity to test and trial a range of new technologies and equipment, with support from experts. With equipment ranging from Augmented Reality devices and digital routers to a fully equipped offsite manufacturing cell, companies will be spoilt for choice when it comes to future-proofing their businesses.
CSIC is also leading by example in terms of addressing the industry’s gender imbalance, which I believe is key to securing its future. More than half our team are women, we’ve already achieved a 50:50 gender split on our senior leadership team, and are working towards the same goal for our board by 2019. To that end, we’ve just announced the appointment of three female leaders, including Sara Thiam, Regional Director of the Institution of Civil Engineers, to our board – perfectly timed with International Women in Engineering Day.
These initiatives are just some of the ways CSIC is working with industry to support the future workforce, but the onus is on all of us to prepare and position the construction industry as the attractive, cutting-edge sector that it could be.
Pictured: Rohan Bush (left), Head of Public Partnerships and Future Workforce at Construction Scotland Innovation Centre, with members of the CSIC team.
Why innovation and marketing are the perfect partners to make changes that matter￼
With the rapid evolution of traditional marketing and the appearance of digital marketing, technology and innovation has become part of any marketer’s life without the need of working for a…
Transitioning to a four-day week – CEO’s vow to strike a healthier balance in the workplace
I came to Scotland nearly 20 years ago from Ireland, with no contacts but a lot of determination. While Ireland will always be my home, Scotland has given me amazing…
Women Lead: The female-led company championing intuitive working
Over the last two years, the pandemic forced a shift to more remote and flexible working practices. Whilst we might be seeing a “return to normal”, some companies are choosing…
Women Lead: My passion for young people to consider a career in digital
Twenty years ago, I stumbled across my career in digital marketing almost by accident. It was during my honours degree in marketing at Glasgow Caledonian University. I was on work…
Women Lead: Inclusive Silicon Valley cohort gives hope to entrepreneurs from diverse backgrounds
Things are happening on the Scottish tech scene. Big and small initiatives are creating a fantastic ripple effect on the sector, bottom up and top down, thanks to the recommendations…
Women Lead: The story of an entrepreneurial scientist
I first arrived in Scotland over 20 years ago. I had £75 in my wallet and a scholarship offer to do a PhD at the University of Edinburgh. Sometimes I…
Please mind the gap… or healthcare may fall
Imagine sharing a lengthy train journey with others. From beginning to end, imagine how often you might hear ‘mind the gap’ messages about embarking and disembarking safely. Picture how navigating…
Women Lead: My journey from Dragons’ Den to Silicon Valley
Following her appearance on Dragons’ Den, Sheila Hogan, serial entrepreneur, founder and chief executive of digital legacy vault, Biscuit Tin, shares her experience of her time in the Den and…