How to solve the construction and engineering talent gap

Jeffrey Matsu

Senior Economist (RICS)

The issue of how to solve the engineering and construction talent gap was recently discussed by senior leaders from across Europe, the Middle East and US at the World Economic Forum's “Future of Construction” Roundtable in Berlin. A reoccurring message throughout our meeting was that the perception of our industry is substantially below its great potential – people like the industry’s purpose, but perceive the work negatively. Do you agree?

The war for talent

The standardisation of professional accreditation and career pathways across companies and geographic regions was highlighted by delegates as both desirable and necessary if we are to compete with other industries for highly skilled labour and the brightest and the best from future generations. 

Within our industry there was an expression for career pathways to be made clearer, helping to inspire new entrants and motivate existing workers. For example, what are the lateral opportunities within a business, and how does this differ between sectors and company size (e.g. big vs SMEs)?

A focus on technology

Technology featured prominently throughout the discussions, with the war for talent focused on a millennial generation with different work goals and expectations. Technology was viewed as not just necessary for bridging the skills divide and improving productivity, but for defining the relevance of our industry and profession in a world of digitisation.

In a world awash in cloud computing, mobile connectivity, predictive analytics and artificial intelligence, BIM and digital asset mapping were highlighted as two essential tools which will help the industry tackle the challenges posed by big data and create pioneering job opportunities within our sector.

It was felt that four “megatrends” are shaping the construction industry and are having mixed effects on our ability to bridge the skills gap. These are:

  1. Globalisation, a pivot towards developing countries and ageing infrastructure.
  2. Climate change, sustainability and resilience.
  3. Urbanisation, affordable housing and demographics.
  4. Geopolitics, complex regulatory requirements and uncertainty.

At the next World Economic Forum Roundtable in October, we will aim to build our strategic approach to the themes and implications highlighted above. In turn, this will feed directly into a report prepared for the Davos conference in January 2018.

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