Digital Technologies: Upskilling for Rapid Urbanisation

By Lukasz Adamik, Microdesk UK Vice President of Consulting. Originally published in BIM Today.

The growth of cities will put ever-more pressure on the AEC sector to keep pace with the delivery of vital buildings and infrastructure. BIM and digital technologies will be crucial in meeting this challenge but will require skilled workers to realise their potential. Lukasz Adamik, UK vice-president of consulting at Microdesk, looks at how companies can get the right training partner for rapid urbanisation.

The United Nations predicts more than 65% of the world’s population will live in cities by 2050, equating to an increase of 190,000 people per day over the next 30 years. AEC firms will need to deliver projects faster than ever to keep up with this rapid pace of urbanisation by developing strategies that enable more effective project delivery.

BIM and digital technologies are the current leading methods for expediting all phases of the project lifecycle. While the technology has progressed and new tools have been implemented, the need for skilled and forward-thinking workers has only increased.

Business resiliency will therefore be defined by how well an organisation can use these technologies to its advantage. This will require having a skilled and progressive-minded employee base, attracting the best talent and investing in continuous upskilling and reskilling.

Historically, construction has been considered one of the least digitised industries. According to a joint white paper by Autodesk and IDC: “72% of construction companies worldwide said [digital transformation] is a key priority to drive much-needed changes to their processes, business models and/or ecosystems.”

More than half of construction firms, however, have noted they are unable to implement digitisation techniques throughout their business.

As the UK economy emerges from the pandemic, digital skills will be crucial for the future of the economy. Yet, according to this year’s Learning & Work Institute Disconnected Report: “Half (51%) of young people are interested in a career that will require advanced digital skills. Young people are keen to continue upskilling throughout their careers, with seven in 10 (70%) saying they want an employer that invests in digital skills.”

However, the report also states: “Employer investment in training in the UK is low compared to other advanced economies, and has declined in recent years.”

Digital skillsets in construction

Data harvesting and processing, advanced manufacturing, robotics, machine learning, artificial intelligence and even cyber security, improve outcomes throughout construction and help firms remain competitive while fully utilising BIM and other digital technologies. These complex technologies require knowledgeable professionals to develop, operate and implement effectively.

This raises a challenge for leadership regarding recruitment and onboarding, as well as the alignment of business processes such as liabilities, procurement, skills assessment or cost structure and return on investment. Enlisting the right training partner to accomplish this task is essential to long-term success.

Traditional training that simply imparts the tools and features of popular software is no longer enough; rather, professionals must seek a deeper understanding of modern BIM and construction technology from industry and business experts. Partners that focus more on how this technology can create a foundation for collaboration, innovation, synergy and a proactive mindset by beginning with the end in mind will prepare participants at all levels with the potential to transform their business.

Achieving this requires the construction industry to change its mindset on the part of both employers and employees from the ground up. A forward-thinking business must invest in and create its own future, as well as develop an attractive and secure place for employees to grow their capabilities.

This reframing must occur at two levels: the technical skillset to deliver the work better, faster and more reliably, and the ability to better understand the surrounding world, including harnessing the power of technology to transform the business and drive individual personal development.

Advancing digital technologies

They come hand-in-hand and must be implemented simultaneously at all levels, from the most technical boots-on-the-ground staff using the technology to design, construct, install and maintain the building up to the business level and operations including the human resources, procurement and marketing departments.

The trainer must not only be a technology partner but rather a true business partner. It should be an organisation that fully understands the business values, specifics of the trade, obstacles and potential obstacles to better plan for automation and optimisation, short- and long-term business goals to guide the company on the path towards full digital transformation.

For that partner to effectively assess the needs and develop the appropriate training programme, it must also understand the bigger picture including the current status of advancing digital technologies and the future of BIM. An ideal training partner will take the time to learn the needs of the business, as well as each individual employee, their involvement in a project and their unique responsibilities.

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