Can tech layoffs bridge the labor gap in construction?

02 February 2023

As most of us are aware, across all the skilled trades, the worker shortage is progressing alongside advancements in digitization. As a result, leading construction companies are quickly introducing new roles that emphasize the need for workers with a mix of computational knowledge, project-management skills and real-world understanding of the needs, challenges and realities of the construction site.

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Essentially, along with the need for traditional tradesmen and women in construction, the quickly evolving field of construction technology (Contech) is increasing demand for a new kind of construction worker, one with an understanding of emerging technologies as well as the built environment.

It’s a lot to think about, especially when there are days when it feels like all you can think about is simply filling your roster.

But oddly enough, there’s an additional workforce disruption at hand – within the tech industry itself. In recent months, tech companies have been laying workers off by the thousands. In 2022, approximately 120,000 people were dismissed from their job at some of the biggest players in tech – Meta, Amazon, Netflix, Twitter and Google – as well as smaller firms and startups. And in 2023, the announcements keep coming.

Worth considering, however, these mass layoffs present a significant opportunity for traditional construction companies to modernize. And you wouldn’t be alone in wondering what these newly unemployed techies might be able to do for you.

Off the jump, while today’s technology stack offers incredible solutions for upgrading the build process, improving site conditions and helping tradespeople work better, faster and more efficiently in the field, the industry is struggling to keep up with the demand for those with the skills and knowledge to manage and implement these tools successfully.

Obviously, upskilling the workers you have is the preferred method, but if quantity is also still a pervasive issue within your ranks, then it might serve you well to start paying attention to this new class of ex-tech workers.

Attracting tech-savvy workers 

That said, “paying” is a word that a lot of folks are getting hung up on in connection with this new potential opportunity – i.e., yeah, but all these tech workers are accustomed to big salaries that don’t translate to construction. And while there is some truth to the claim, it’s important to remember that not all of these layoffs are actual high-level tech workers and/or their colleagues. The cuts at Amazon, for example, are reportedly across various divisions, including human resources.

This introduces an opportunity to entice younger, more tech-savvy workers to the field. And as builders turn to technology to increase productivity, improve site and safety conditions and reduce the cost and timeline of construction, the modernization of construction processes will require a workforce ready to integrate their tech-focused knowledge and skill sets with industry strategy. Such a pivot places Gen Z and Millennials in an advantageous position when competing for careers within the construction industry.

To that end, an additional area where tech workers could find themselves in the construction industry is in the startup space, filling needs where contractors are looking for innovation. Laid-off tech workers often have the skills to fill these niches, and historically, Big Tech layoffs have led to spikes in business creation across a wealth of sectors.

At the end of the day, the deployment of innovative solutions designed to improve construction efficiency may attract an upcoming generation of workers interested in tech-focused roles, but only if the construction industry ensures these opportunities are available. And only if companies are willing to cast a wider net and consider workers that perhaps don’t fit the traditional archetype for construction.

Either way, widening the scope of skills required for construction careers will no doubt invite a new crowd of professionals – and that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Especially when some of those professionals possess the tools to take your business to the next level.

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