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Bridging the digital skills gap in the AEC industry

Article written by Central Innovation chief operating officer Mike Russell 

The advancement in technologies in the Architecture, Engineering and Construction (AEC) industry has supported in significant growth. As companies explore the potential of future technology capabilities and identify the skills they will need to remain relevant, human capital investment is more important than ever. The evolution of the workplace simply has to parallel technological progress.

With the construction industry projected to grow by more than 120,000 jobs in the next five years, having a workforce of skilled employees is a must. Traditionally, the majority of companies would have turned to “Recruitment” as a potential solution. However, recent developments have indicated that upskilling may also be the key in bridging the industry’s digital skills gap.

Recruitment vs. upskilling

Despite the increasing number of training institutions and online courses available in the market, talent shortages and skill deficits persistently plague the industry as a whole. According to the 2018 Australian Recruitment Trends report, many companies find it very difficult to recruit skilled workers. However, the solution to this issue can be different than expected.

In addition to recruiting from outside sources, companies should also consider investing into upskilling pre-existing talent within the organisation. This approach has many benefits; companies will gain staff that are well-equipped for their assignments while employees feel valued as their professional development is evidently prioritised. Subsequently, this will positively impact on employee retention as well.

Partnering with education providers and registered training institutions is an effective way to upskill staff. With this in mind, ensure that the chosen training programs align with the business’ needs and provides value to both the employee and employer. Consider the likes of accredited training courses that would help build and maintain a highly skilled and competitive workforce.

The broad nature of upskilling allows for organisations to focus on practical training areas that directly address the companies’ needs. With training programs ranging from digital skills through to management techniques, this ensures immediate value for the organisation and enhancement of its reputation

Preparing for the future

With new technologies constantly emerging, companies need to be at the forefront in order to continue providing competitive and relevant offerings to their clients. The evolution of the AEC industry dictates a shift in which companies need to adapt to such changes. The recent development and deployment of Building Information Modelling (BIM), for example, emphasises the importance of such endeavours.

BIM’s role in the industry is only set to rise and its adoption will give aspiring professionals a rewarding and long-term career path. Increased interest in BIM has already led to the introduction of BIM-specific degree programmes. Companies that engage with BIM will find an increased rate of young talent acquisitions.

The nature of technological advancement ultimately results in a consistent disparity between technology and skills; as new technology becomes available, the workplace inevitably has to learn and acquire the necessary expertise to operate it. Instead of focusing all its efforts only on recruitment, upskilling has proven to be an effective way of building talent within the business while fostering retention.

Ultimately, a holistic approach towards the growth of employees by investing in education and training will essentially help contribute to the health of the business. Although there are cases where a specialist recruiter can source the best people from the local and overseas markets.

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