Opinion

Work with educators to plug construction’s digital skills gap

Employers have much to gain from helping colleges develop a digital construction curriculum, says Grant Findlay
Image: Dreamstime
Image: Dreamstime

The pandemic has impacted how construction employers invest in talent, but a skills crisis continues to loom, necessitating action.

There is an urgent need to strengthen links between educators and industry. With young people fronting the majority of pandemic-inflicted job losses, and firms in desperate need of new talent, the two groups have a lot to gain by partnering up.

This is especially true of digital skills. The advance of digital technology, catalysed further by the pandemic, is particularly evident in our industry. Be it BIM, offsite construction, digital tools or data analytics, everywhere there are significant time and commercial benefits to be gained from such technologies. But we need to be developing these technical digital skills before people join the industry. The only real way this can be achieved is through partnerships.

“Collaboration between employers and educators is key. This means working with exam boards to ensure qualifications reflect the skills needed for a fruitful construction career”

Currently, digital training programmes for construction are lacking; education has failed to mirror the industry’s technological developments. We’re teaching analogue skills in a digital age.

To remedy this disconnect, collaboration between employers and educators is key. This means working with exam boards to ensure qualifications reflect the skills needed for a fruitful construction career and engaging with students before they’ve finished their courses.

This is the rationale behind Scotland’s first Career College, where Sir Robert McAlpine is working with the City of Glasgow College to develop the first ever dedicated digital construction curriculum at non-professional level. Through our work supporting staff to develop technology skills and an understanding of its impact on the sector, we hope to ensure our industry’s continued success.

There is an opportunity of dual benefit here: enhancing youth job prospects and resolving the industry’s digital dilemma. Through effective collaboration between educators and employers, we can not only recover from the covid-19 crisis, but thrive.

Grant Findlay is strategy director at Sir Robert McAlpine.

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