The construction industry is dealing with a labor shortage that’s having ripple effects throughout the field, especially as younger workers opt for other careers.

As we wrote last month, the share of construction workers younger than age 25 dropped 30% from 2005 to 2016, according to a BuildZoom study. A survey from the National Association of Home Builders found that just 3% of people, age 18 to 25, say they are interested in working in construction.

But all is not lost. Highlighting how the industry is using the latest technologies — from artificial intelligence to the Internet of Things — is one way to get young people excited about the field and understand its potential as a future career.

Case in point: The team of Drexel University construction students who recently took home first place in the annual Associated Schools of Construction Student Competition, Region 1, this fall, thanks, in part, to their incorporation of Spot-r into their project.

For their award-winning project in the commercial building category, the team created a proposal for the renovation of an historic building on a university campus, according to a Drexel article about the competition.

Among the details they needed to include was a safety plan. And, in that safety plan, they added Spot-r, our Internet of Things-enabled device that can monitor the movements of workers and equipment, alert workers immediately to evacuations and notify supervisors when a worker has fallen on the jobsite.

Christopher Torres, a senior at Drexel who is enrolled in the College of Engineering’s five-year co-operative program for contract management, was part of the team. Torres, who hopes to work at a general contractor in New York City after graduation this spring, first learned about Spot-r during a six-month co-operative experience with a general contractor in the New York area that uses the platform on jobsites across the city. 

The Drexel team was among 12 vying for the top prize. 

Drexel University team wins first place in construction student competition 

“It was an awesome weekend, and we believe that the technology we brought along with us, especially the Spot-r Clips, really helped separate us from our competition,” Torres told us. “Our judges from Dimeo Construction loved our presentation and found the Spot-r Clips very fascinating and effective for implementing in jobsite safety.” 

We checked in with Torres to learn more about how the team incorporated Spot-r into their project and how technology can resolve major issues on jobsites. Here’s a Q&A:  

Why did you include Spot-r in your project? What about it intrigued you?

Preparing for the Associated Schools of Construction competition, my fellow teammates and I knew that we would need to prepare some aspects that would truly stand out and differentiate ourselves from the other schools we would be facing. We decided that the technology that we would integrate on our “jobsite” would be one of these key differentiators. 

Having prior knowledge about Triax and Spot-r, I was lucky enough to come across the Triax team at the Philadelphia General Building Contractors Association (GBCA) Construction Technology Expo. Explaining our situation, Lori Peters and the Triax team were more than welcome to equip us with a few of the Spot-r Clips to showcase in the competition.

I knew that having the Spot-r Clip as part of our array of construction technology for the competition would really help us in placing first place in the ASC Region 1 competition. The judges were truly interested in seeing us integrate Spot-r into our jobsite safety program and risk management and the advantages that it offered.

What are some of the major issues related to safety, compliance and risk management on jobsites? How can technology solve those problems?

A major issue of safety on construction jobsites is the inefficiency and sometimes even inability to notify the proper personnel of any hazards or risks that are present on the jobsite. 

With tech solutions such as the Spot-r platform, workers are able to notify all personnel of major hazards on the jobsite at once and trigger the Spot-r EvacTags that are in place throughout the site. This really helps with streamlining the emergency evacuation process.

Another issue that can come with jobsites, especially in today’s industry with a shortage of skilled workers, is that workers and personnel are inexperienced and not certified in handling certain equipment and machinery. With this comes risks and hazards not only to that particular worker, but also to many others who are on the jobsite.

With solutions such as the Spot-r EquipTag, which monitors operator identity, designated supervisors are notified when someone not certified is operating equipment and machinery. They can prevent these workers from hurting themselves and, potentially, others.

How do you think technology will play a role in construction going forward?

Attending the GBCA Technology Expo in Philadelphia this past October, I believe that contractors and construction companies are realizing the influence and advantages that can come with implementing more technology into their work environment.

In the near future, we will begin to see more innovations within construction technology, as well as companies that are much more willing to adopt these technologies and invest in them. 

Additionally, I believe that this sort of technology will begin to be seen early on in one’s career and it will be implemented in classrooms and technology labs for trade schools, high schools, colleges and universities alike.

To learn more about what Chris experienced in the field read our customer case study with NYC-based Lettire Construction