Project skills shortage a catalyst for digitisation and collaboration

Rob Bryant
January 17, 2022

The halt in skilled immigration and workforce mobility has exacerbated the skills shortage in construction. While the tentative reopening of our borders may help alleviate some pressures in the short term, the skills shortage will persist in 2022 and addressing this must remain a top priority for project owners.

InEight’s 2021 Global Capital Project Outlook report found that one third of APAC project owners and contractors cite skill shortages as a risk factor. Beyond the disruption from the pandemic, the current crisis presents an opportunity for the sector to work together and reshape the construction industry and make building more sustainable.

Digitisation attracts fresh talent

Construction has long been inaccurately perceived as an outlier when it comes remote work. Over the course of the pandemic, organisations have been forced to accelerate the adoption of technology, challenging the inherent belief that delivering projects required everyone together in the site office.

With the shift comes the realisation that people can effectively work remotely and collaborate remotely on everything, from schedules to construction work. Technology now enables those who are on-site to accurately record progress, track the delivery and use of materials and conduct necessary inspections, while uploading the information to a central point for review.

As decisions become informed by influx of real-time data, roles are changing in construction. New roles are being created that require different skills such as analysing, forecasting and scheduling.

Through digitisation, construction as a field is changing into one that is multi-disciplinary and driven by insights. The culture of the industry is accelerating towards more innovation which allows procurement processes and skill transferability to be significantly improved. By adopting the right tools and embracing the skill requirements that comes with it, the sector will become appealing to a more diverse array of talent and help address the labour gap.

Collaboration over competition

As various federal and state governments invest heavily in infrastructure, we can expect the robust level of activity and competition in the market to continue. Delivering projects in a timely and on-budget manner could not be more important and, coupled with the widespread scarcity of skills, beckons a new era in alliances and strategic partnerships.

The large, complex projects fuel a wealth of opportunity and the skills shortage means contractors need to work together to win work and see it completed. Contractors are being brought into alliances and becoming desired partners in projects because of their technological ability, in the same way that organisations previously had a reputation for their technical abilities.

As more third parties get involved, owners should adopt a shared-risk approach where key players can access appropriate visibility of the right data. The heightened visibility will help mitigate any potential issues and improve the chances of a project’s success. The more integration and connectivity that occurs through this data sharing means project teams and equipment will be in better alignment with a realistic schedule that provides everyone with the most advanced level of project certainty.

Ultimately, having the right platform that offers greater transparency will enable the whole team to collaborate, make better decisions and work towards the shared goal of timely, on-budget completion.

Digital transformation is an opportunity

The construction industry has been one of the slowest to digitally transform over the last decade, but this is surely changing.

According to InEight’s data, professionals in the industry are recognising the value technology can add; 93 per cent of APAC respondents feel optimistic about the industry’s future and have sourced technology as the key mark for this. All APAC respondents in the same report have already invested in project management software, connected worksite communications, and operations and maintenance solutions.

Project owners are recognising the benefits of providing stakeholders with access and influence on the planning process and improving visibility across data points to make informed decisions, throughout the project lifecycle. Contractors, on the other hand, perceive that digital technology adoption will serve as a key differentiator in securing contracts.

InEight’s report found that in the APAC region, 78 per cent of respondents noted that digital transformation was considered their biggest short-term source of opportunity, with data analytics, artificial intelligence and machine learning considered most critical for their success over the next one to three years.

The growing appetite in digital transformation across the region will be the catalyst to the evolution of the construction sector in 2022 and beyond. The adoption of smart technology and data will be critical in facilitating a more collaborative approach, build necessary skill sets to fill the talent pipeline and help deliver stronger project outcomes.

Author avatar
Rob Bryant
Rob Bryant is the Executive Vice President of APAC for InEight, a global leader in integrated project controls software across infrastructure, public sector, energy and power, oil, gas and chemical, mining, and commercial. InEight has powered more than $400 billion in projects globally, including more than $100 billion worth of Australia-based projects.
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