workforce shortage

Digital Skills Gap Amplified by Pandemic, AGC Survey Says

By KERRY SMITH, EDITOR, ST. LOUIS CONSTRUCTION NEWS AND REVIEW MAGAZINE

As construction industry workforce shortages have grown since the pandemic, so has the measurable gap in digital skills, according to a recent Associated General Contractors of America member survey.

The survey, conducted in July and August, polled 1,266 individuals associated with construction companies of all sizes from across the U.S. Survey findings revealed that 47 percent of firms are boosting internal spending on training and 25 percent are increasing their budget dedicated to online skills training. Companies are seeking to replace long-time workers who retired over the past two years as well as add positions to keep pace with increased project loads.

“More than one-half of all construction companies surveyed said they’re engaging with career-building programs offered by universities, training centers and other educators,” said Allison Scott, director of construction thought leadership and customer marketing at Autodesk, developer of design and make technology for architecture, engineering and construction firms. “A total of 16 percent reported that they’re using augmented reality and virtual reality to help train their workers.”

The industry’s increased demand for those experienced in using construction technology is putting the squeeze on already tight workforce supply. “Digital nomads,” defined by Scott as those who have not yet adopted construction technology, are recruiting hard to attract digital natives, those who’ve been using construction technology since its inception.

In addition to AR and VR, examples of sought-after construction technology skills include fluency in estimating software, building information modeling, mobile apps, construction management software and drone operation.

“Trying to stay ahead of the curve is extremely challenging for construction companies that haven’t consistently adopted industry technology as it has been introduced,” said Scott. “Future growth of their companies depends upon it.”

AGC of America Chief Economist Ken Simonson agrees.

“It will take time to see companies’ training initiative bear fruit,” he said. “Right now, too few people are prepared to work in this industry.”