Bridging the Skills Gap:
How Connected Autonomous Plant Technology is Reshaping the Construction Workforce
The construction industry is undergoing a transformation with the advent of connected autonomous plant technology. Connected autonomous plant refers to the use of advanced sensors, GPS technology and machine learning algorithms to create self-driving vehicles and equipment that can operate independently on construction sites.
This technology is changing the face of construction by making it more efficient, safer, and sustainable but alongside the technological “Platform” innovation in the construction industry, a key part of digital transformation is to embed this technology into “Processes” and crucially with the third “P”… People.
The UK construction industry has long been facing a skills gap, with a shortage of skilled workers in many areas. This has been caused by factors including an ageing workforce, low levels of investment in training and education and a lack of young people entering the industry. More specifically, a Construction Plant-hire Association (CPA) study concludes that more than four in ten (43%) construction plant workers are aged 45 and over. Conversely, fewer than one in ten (8%) are aged 24 or under.
This shortage has the potential to impact the industry’s ability to deliver major infrastructure projects on time and within budget, as well as the quality of construction work. To address the skills gap, the UK government has been working with industry bodies to invest in apprenticeships, training, and education programs to attract and train the next generation of construction workers.
According to recent statistics, the number of young people entering the construction industry in the UK has been declining. In 2019, only 6% of the construction workforce was aged under 25, compared to 15% in 1990.
The interim between the status quo of operator on-site plan control and the fully automated plan is the concept of operator remote control plant. This further strengthens the gender neutrality, flexibility, and youth-oriented push where a worker can commute to a regular office location (or even work from home) to complete their construction-based tasks regardless of site location. This is also more conducive to part-time/flexi-time working arrangements which are beneficial to all staff.
How Autonomous Plant Helps Solve the "people" problem
The opportunity to receive on-the-job training and apprenticeships in various construction trades is a motivator for many young people.