First, a statement of the obvious. We expect to be recruiting brickies and other trades for years to come. You don’t have to worry that a robot is going to take your job away, at least not for some time.
That said, it’s important to be aware of what is happening beyond the building site. As the recent report by Mace Group makes clear, “The UK construction industry’s lacklustre productivity levels and need for radical productivity improvements are well known.” Consequently, any construction company that wants to increase its productivity and hence its margins, is duty bound to seek ways to improve and use technology to better effect.
The analysis by Mace suggests that it will be necessary to re-skill over 600,000 construction workers over the next 20 years. Whether we like it or not, that means that people will lose their jobs in the future. The economic history of the country – of the world in fact – demonstrates this quite clearly. For the hand-loom weavers of the 18th and 19th century and the (probably mythical) Ned Ludd – from whose name we get the term “Luddites” – the problem was simple: the machines, specifically the power-loom of the industrial revolution, would take their jobs. Today, with what's called the 4th Industrial Revolution looming, things are not much different, but our attitudes need to be if we are to prevent our industry going the same way as the hand-loom.
As the Mace report insists, “this isn’t a problem we can address on our own. Our industry must work with training and education providers and with government to radically transform how we train our workers, from those just entering the industry to those who are looking to retrain for a second or third new career.” I couldn’t agree more. In the meantime, we’re going to concentrate on getting those with the necessary trades’ skills into great jobs where they can earn and show their worth. While we do this, we’re also going to contribute our own thoughts here, on our news page, as to how the industry might – and indeed must – change in the future. Re-training is one obvious thing. Making use of transferable skills is another. But above all we need to face the future with optimism, not retreat from the reality that will come increasingly fast down the track to meet us.
Chris Peace, MD, Peace Recruitment
If you want to download the Mace report, you can do so here.