Which drivers of change will affect their skills?
The growing need for higher-level skills can be attributed to a number of key drivers. Despite the fact that the workers within this group carry out a variety of roles, these common drivers will inevitably impact upon their work, although to different degrees.
Technological advances bring about a number of emerging new practices, which are likely to change the landscape of the construction sector. Workers in building and related trades must possess sufficient qualifications and take up professional development opportunities to use new IT-based, or automated, equipment, such as remote controlled vehicles and smart tools 4 5
. One key IT-based technology that is expanding its influence throughout the industry is Building Information Modelling (BIM). BIM is used to design and manage construction projects at all stages of the production process and is also used to inform project workers6
Use and combination of materials in building construction is also evolving along with innovation in the sector; consequently, this increases the demand for specific skills. For example the Very Tall Building (VTB) construction will become more common in Europe, rising the demand for specialised skills such as extreme construction engineering techniques or new ways of crane building7
“Working in a lean [production] environment and preparing a building for prefabrication during design means working closely with architects, engineers, construction professionals, and trade subcontractors at the conceptual design stage and throughout the entire building process. Whether your team shares an integrated delivery contract or not, work processes will need to be more collaborative than the traditional process of handing over contract documents at specific points during design and then leaving the rest up to the construction team.
It also requires project team members to think about things beyond their individual specialties, such as diversity of electrical and mechanical loads, airflow of the building, and how building parts fit together”.
As projects grow in size, off-site manufacturing becomes more important. Many parts of a structure can now be built in construction factories before being transported. This means that there’s less need for tradespeople like bricklayers and plasterers on-site, and that they will need to adapt their ways of working to factory situations with new qualifications.
Aside from mastering new technologies, building and related trades workers will require collaborative skills and the ability to work in better-connected interdisciplinary teams. Technical skills are also very important in off-site building and construction roles, such as computer aided design or computer aided manufacturing.
Climate change challenges and the need for greater energy efficiency in the EU have raised the development of “green” buildings and sustainable waste management in the EU policy agenda8
. New practices have already been implemented as a result of technological advances, and in response to regulatory changes related to material waste and pollutant emissions9
. As the reduction pollutants in construction processes becomes a greater priority, new materials, methods and technology will be introduced10
. Current and future workers will need to have relevant skills to work with new and “green” material and techniques11
. Some building and related trades workers should also possess the mathematical and analytical acumen to measure and establish strategies and targets required to minimise waste production in their company’s operations12
The energy sector will also be a major driver of demand for specific skill sets of construction workers. With its aging energy infrastructure and its strong decarbonisation focus, Europe will need major investments to build, retrofit or decommission its power plants13
. Construction workers’ skills will be of major importance: as most of Europe’s power plants have been built decades ago, know-how related to steel-fixing or building of large concrete structures that require specific endurance and durability are often not easy to find.
With increasing levels of urbanisation being experienced throughout Europe, a variety of challenges will be faced as population density increases and demand for space and resources follows suit. As a result, retrofitting and building renovation will become more common practice14
. During recent years, retrofitting regards a significant share of the value-added in the EU building sector, with the market activity strongest in France, Germany and the UK15
. Builders and related trades workers need technical expertise both in retrofitting and renovation, along with skills in new practices and methods, including offsite production and prefabricated building elements.
Risk of automation: As a part of its Digitalisation and future of work project
, Cedefop estimates the risks of automation
for occupations. The most exposed occupations are those with significant share of tasks that can be automated – operation of specialised technical equipment, routine or non-autonomous tasks – and those with a small reliance on communication, collaboration, critical thinking and customer-serving skills. The risk of automation is further accentuated in occupations where employees report they have little access to professional training that could help them to cope with labour market changes. Construction workers are reportedly an occupation with high risk of automation.