Build­ing game is go­ing hi-tech

Work­ers need higher and higher lev­els of train­ing, writes Me­lanie Burgess

The Courier-Mail - Career One - - Trades -

NEW tech­nol­ogy is en­cour­ag­ing a more highly qual­i­fied con­struc­tion in­dus­try, with the num­ber of work­ers hold­ing diplo­mas and ad­vanced diplo­mas across Aus­tralia roughly tripling in 30 years.

Mean­while, lower qual­i­fied trades­peo­ple and labour­ers barely in­creased by 50 per cent in that time, ac­cord­ing to ABS fig­ures.

Con­struc­tion Skills Queens­land di­rec­tor of ev­i­dence and data Robert Sobyra says tech­nol­ogy is a ma­jor cat­a­lyst for the work­force’s shift.

“As more and more so­phis­ti­cated tech­nolo­gies and pro­cesses have been in­tro­duced on con­struc­tion sites, work­ers have needed higher and higher lev­els of train­ing,” he says.

“For tech­nol­ogy to drive pro­duc­tiv­ity, there needs to be peo­ple who can drive the tech­nol­ogy hence the im­por­tance of skills de­vel­op­ment. No pro­duc­tiv­ity gains can come from a con­struc­tion site full of cut­tingedge ma­chin­ery that no one can op­er­ate.”

Sobyra says CSQ and CSIRO’s The Far­side Pro­ject, which is cur­rently un­der way, has al­ready found strong signs the trend will con­tinue.

“Tech­no­log­i­cal dis­rup­tion is likely to speed up sig­nif­i­cantly over the next 20 years, rewrit­ing the very DNA of the con­struc­tion in­dus­try in terms of ro­bot­ics, ad­vanced ma­te­ri­als and off-site fab­ri­ca­tion,” he says.

Re­search sug­gests low­er­skilled con­struc­tion jobs, such as glaziers, plaster­ers and tilers, face a high risk of be­ing au­to­mated.

Sobyra sug­gests jobs that are repet­i­tive and heavy on rigid pro­ce­dure will be del­e­gated to ma­chines and this trend will be ac­cel­er­ated if pre­fab­ri­ca­tion be­comes more com­mon as the process lends it­self to ro­bot­ics.

He says the con­struc­tion work­force won’t nec­es­sar­ily be slashed but rather the jobs will be un­recog­nis­able com­pared to to­day.

“We ex­pect the em­pha­sis to shift from skill sets fo­cused on man­ual dex­ter­ity and phys­i­cal labour to skill sets fo­cused on the in­tel­li­gent and pre­cise use of tech­nol­ogy,” he says.

“Ma­chines will not do the work alone, they will re­quire hu­mans to point them in the right di­rec­tions, to at least iden­tify the prob­lems that need solv­ing.

“Where once it was enough to find some­one good with their hands, fu­ture em­ploy­ers will be look­ing for peo­ple who are good with their key­boards and good with their words.”

Mas­ter Builders Aus­tralia chief ex­ec­u­tive Wil­helm Har­nisch says tech­no­log­i­cal ad­vance­ment is sig­nif­i­cantly driven by high labour costs but the train­ing sys­tem has not yet caught up with the tech­nol­ogy.

“The train­ing sys­tem needs to be more in­dus­try-driven to en­sure the cur­ricu­lum is adapted to bet­ter meet in­dus­try needs,” he says.

Tech­no­log­i­cal dis­rup­tion is likely

to speed up sig­nif­i­cantly over the next 20 years

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