Building game is going hi-tech
Workers need higher and higher levels of training, writes Melanie Burgess
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