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Robots threaten more than 600K construction jobs

SGA Autodesk 04 Cropped

More than 600,000 construction workers could lose their jobs to automation by 2040, as disruptive technology is set to ignite a major reskilling drive, a report has said.

The Internet of Things, autonomous vehicles, robotics and artificial intelligence are predicted to snatch job roles in what Mace believes is a new industrial revolution capable of bringing £25bn in benefits per year to the UK.

Although figures cited in Mace’s report Moving to Industry 4.0: A skills revolution are estimates, the research gives an indication of how many workers will need to be reskilled to take full advantage of better productivity offered by automation.

If workers do not become sufficiently tech-savvy, the UK could lose out on quicker and cheaper delivery of major infrastructure projects.

Last month a report by Arcadis warned that construction output must double over the next decade to meet demand, jumping to £95,000 of output per minute.

“Our latest report highlights the opportunities the digital revolution can offer, how we can dramatically close the future skills gap and how we can meet the £25bn ‘productivity challenge’,” said Mace chief executive and Construction Industry Council skills lead Mark Reynolds.

“The recommendations we have laid out will go some way towards addressing these issues. The industry, our training bodies and government need to work together to take full advantage of everything that Industry 4.0 can offer.”

The report outlines three ways to make sure enough workers can be retrained. New technology such as 3D printing and augmented reality should be used in training to make sure courses are attractive to potential new recruits.

Sector-wide research should be carried out with government bodies such as the Office for National Statistics (ONS) to make sure skills are keeping up with demand. Finally apprenticeships should be drastically reformed to keep pace with technology and ensure trainees are ready for the modern construction industry.

CITB policy director Steve Radley warned the report’s findings were “highly credible.”

He added: “We’ve got an ageing workforce, Brexit recruitment issues and wafer-thin margins – all of which are piling on pressure for the industry to change.

“But there are long-term infrastructure projects coming up which helps companies invest for the future. It’s down to industry, government and training bodies like CITB to work together to deliver what the industry needs.”

According to Mace, whereas the third industrial revolution led to digital technology automating production, the fourth revolution will use new technology to connect the physical, digital and biological worlds. However to fully take advantage of the benefits, construction will have to beat its poor track record of embracing new technology.

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