When today’s young adults contemplate their futures, construction jobsites aren’t usually part of their vision. As we’ve written before, just 3% of young people, age 18 to 25, said they planned to work in the industry, according to a survey from the National Association of Home Builders. Jobs in fields such as technology held much more appeal.
This disinterest is causing ripple effects throughout the industry. A survey by Autodesk and the Associated General Contractors of America found that 80% of construction firms have trouble filling hourly craft positions. About one-third of firms are including longer completion times in their bids for new work because of the labor shortage, the survey found.
The industry desperately needs young adults to replace retiring workers. And, while the numbers look ominous, there’s some good news: It is possible to lure them to the field by tying these careers to the promises of existing and emerging technology solutions that are streamlining jobsites. After all, the experience on just about any large-scale construction site isn’t just about hammer, nails, concrete and drywall. They also rely on cutting-edge solutions that incorporate everything from the Internet of Things to artificial intelligence.
It’s a lesson that students are learning more often in their construction engineering classes at higher education institutions around the country. A team of Drexel University construction students recently took home first place in the annual Associated Schools of Construction Student Competition, Region 1, with a project that included Spot-r, our IoT-enabled wearable device that monitors worker movements and helps site managers lower risk and find new efficiencies on jobsites.
And at Iowa State University, a team of students also recently incorporated Spot-r into a classroom project with success, Brittany Wall, a construction engineering student there, shared.
“For one of my classes, we were asked to find an innovative product that will benefit the construction industry,” said Wall, who hopes to work as a field engineer when she graduates. “I researched a few different products until I found Triax and loved that the Spot-r clip played a role in safety while also helping with data logging and visibility of the construction site.”
During the presentation, Wall’s team distributed the Spot-r clip to students and professors. They demonstrated how workers wear it on their waistband, explained the different sets of data it can log and described how the technology works.
Accident can happen, Wall said. And while there is no single technology to prevent all accidents, it can help. Spot-r, for example, notifies supervisors when a worker has fallen, allowing them to immediately respond to the injury. With it, workers also can quickly alert managers to other emergency situations.
“Having a technology that can shorten the response time for an employee to be looked at is the next step to finding a solution to help prevent potential injuries and risks that pertain to the employees,” Wall said.
Going forward, construction tech solutions will only grow on jobsites, she believes. And she’s excited about the possibilities. Said Wall: “I believe that technology will be running construction sites in the future.”