We are finally on the cusp of the much-heralded fourth industrial age. The transformational technology that will bring about a new industrial revolution is already available, and across the global economy, businesses are beginning to leverage it to deliver huge productivity benefits.
It doesn’t look so rosy everywhere. The UK construction industry’s lacklustre productivity levels and need for radical productivity improvements are well known.
Over the last decade output per worker has remained flat in construction, whereas the service sector has improved by just over 30% and output in manufacturing has rocketed by more than 50%.
For construction, Industry 4.0 is a fresh chance to catch up with our competitors and deliver transformational growth in productivity.
It represents a move to a world in which technology from artificial intelligence to advanced robotics to autonomous vehicles will transform how our businesses operate and how our buildings are created.
This revolution should radically improve the productivity levels of our industry, improve quality, safety and the impacts on the environment.
However, any conversation about modern methods of construction or innovative new ways of working isn’t complete unless we discuss where we’re going to find the skills we need to leverage them.
To seize the opportunities presented by these emerging technologies we will have to embark on a training programme unlike any other our industry has seen before.
Our new analysis estimates that we will need to reskill over 600,000 construction employees over the next two decades, from trades vulnerable to technological change to new roles created by technology.
As we make clear, 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.
The suggestions in this report are only a start. The construction sector is going to look very different in a decade or two – and so is its workforce. Are we going to be ready for it? Or will we fall behind?