Hire technology: SCRA comment November 2020

By Joel Dandrea and Alex Dahm25 March 2021

Joel Dandrea Joel Dandrea

When most people think of tech jobs, their first instinct isn’t construction, but within the burgeoning field of contech, the demand for skilled-trade workers who possess a comprehensive understanding of the principles of good construction, project management and computer coding continues to rise.

Around the world, the fairly recent emergence of the computational engineer position within construction comprises a skill set that’s less boots-on-the-ground and more data interrogation. Nonetheless, industry leaders understand that, as the construction industry gets more tech-heavy, there will only be more demand for tech-savvy workers to comfortably navigate the technology stack and comprehend how the built environment works – to identify potential pain points and help those workers in the field perform more efficiently, productively and safely.

In coming years, industry leaders will need an additional type of worker – one who possesses a keen mix of computational, construction tech and building knowledge. But finding tech workers who understand construction isn’t always easy.

Nonetheless, as construction tech continues to flood the market, companies will find themselves endeavouring to keep up with it all, and employees that can organise, comprehend and efficiently apply this tech stack to day-to-day operational productivity will become ever-more vital to success.

New reality

Where once a construction worker only needed to understand and focus on the traditional jobsite requirements within a project, he or she might now have to juggle several technological and-or data-driven applications connected to the work. Essentially, new skills are being added beneath the skilled-trades umbrella.

Moreover, as construction leans further into the IoT (Internet of Things) era, it will be incumbent on industry leaders to accept and understand that different parts of their workforce will be responsible for different parts of a company’s overall success. To that end, what might have once been unthinkable has fast become a reality: the necessity for companies to onboard employees with the ability to tie all the different field technologies together – while processing data on site, and articulating a cohesive message to those in the field.

As a result, small and mid-sized contractors are now looking at filling these roles as much as larger companies. And it isn’t really about taking the office IT person and trying to upskill them on construction. That’s not enough. An IT department in today’s average construction company typically handles the day-to-day hardware and software administration of the company. While you might think it’s an intentional and upfront part of the job description, many companies toss IT workers the job of important decision making almost as an afterthought. That leaves those overtasked IT professionals vulnerable to making on-the-spot decisions with limited information and resources.

In fact, this is a new type of employee altogether – one with top-to-bottom understanding of the ever-changing world of construction tech, the principles of good construction and project management, and computer coding, all wrapped into one.

By not adapting to this ongoing reality, companies will find it increasingly more challenging to implement new technology and, ultimately, compete for new business.

Obviously, it has to make sense across multiple organisational levels. In the case that it does, in order to complement IT and put the focus on getting the right tech in the hands of staff, companies should consider hiring for this new role, or at least appointing a task force.

While it might take a while to headhunt the right professionals for the job and integrate them into their new roles, it could very well be worth the time. As construction moves more towards tech, successful companies won’t wait to find out the hard way how vital these new roles can be.

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