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How Technology is Fueling Millennial Interest in Construction Careers
Russ Gibbs, Regional Director of VDC, Brasfield & Gorrie
With the widespread adoption of Building Information Modeling (BIM), the construction industry is experiencing a fundamental shift in how we produce, share, and manage information. A rapidly growing demand for Virtual Design and Construction (VDC) applications illustrates that shift and is fueling opportunities for the industry. As technology—and BIM in particular—drives innovation, the construction industry is perfectly poised to leverage opportunities to attract and retain top millennial talent. It is up to industry leaders to promote that growth and cast the vision for how a passion to explore and discover can translate to a fulfilling construction career.
The shift currently taking place in the construction industry is much like the shift that has occurred previously in many other industries. Recreating the physical world within a virtual space allows users to control the elements of time and reality, and in turn, maximize the use of information to increase productivity, quality, and communication among team members. BIM is the catalyst driving the construction industry to make this shift from the physical world to the virtual space. With this transformation comes opportunity and excitement for young employees and a powerful ability for project teams to make better, more timely decisions that result in greater accuracy, efficiency, quality, and safety.
As technology becomes increasingly essential to construction projects, new applications of BIM are giving rise to the use of new tools in construction, such as laser scanning, virtual/augmented reality, 4D scheduling, unmanned aerial systems, and robotics. With this rising demand for technology and ever-expanding set of tools comes an increasing need for personnel with the skill sets necessary to implement a model-based approach to construction. For instance, at Brasfield & Gorrie, the VDC department has grown nearly 500 percent over the past five years, and we’re currently seeking VDC professionals at multiple levels. To keep up with this rising demand, the industry must find ways to attract millennials and show them the attractive opportunities within construction.
As technology becomes increasingly essential to construction projects, new applications of BIM are giving rise to the use of new tools in construction
While recruiting tech-savvy individuals to fill these needs can be challenging, the ongoing shift in construction brings opportunity, excitement, freedom, challenge, reward, and the ability to create lasting impacts—all of which are fueling interest in construction among millennials. The challenge for industry leaders and training programs lies in fully recognizing the impact of BIM and communicating its potential in a way that attracts and engages potential entrants to the workforce.
Four strategies will be key to capitalizing on the opportunity BIM presents to make the industry more attractive to the younger, more tech-savvy generation.
First, companies must make information available in an online format that can be accessed by the entire project team. This means accurately capturing physical construction projects in an online program and ensuring that models mimic all aspects of the construction process, complete with data related to cost, quality, schedule, installation, location, safety, and more. Making this information accessible online allows for greater accuracy and removes barriers to teamwork.
Next, companies must create engaging opportunities around employees’ interests. With the constantly evolving applications of modeling technology, there is ample opportunity for team members to explore their passions. At Brasfield & Gorrie, we’ve designed our VDC department in a way that encourages team members to pursue VDC applications in their unique areas of interest. For instance, one employee with an interest in scheduling leads efforts to break 3D model objects into components exactly as they will be installed so that this information can be tied to the project schedule as well as physical installation. Another employee with a passion for safety is leading efforts to research applications of RFID technology in tracking safety requirements. Team members with interest in augmented reality are exploring innovative ways to use this emerging technology in conjunction with model-based construction by overlaying the physical world within the virtual space.
Other team members are leading cutting-edge research in the areas of laser scanning, drones, and robotics based on their individual interests.
Supporting this innovation with an infrastructure that allows for mobility is the third key element. Millennials want flexibility and the freedom to work from any place at any time. Ensuring that information is accessible from the jobsite and on the go will support successful modeling efforts by enabling all team members to update models in real time and instantly access the most current information. This kind of infrastructure will also meet the needs of millennials, who are accustomed to constant connectivity.
Finally, companies must be mindful to create policies, culture, and organizational structures that foster meaningful relationships and fulfillment in the workplace. While technology can be an asset to our industry as we strive to build the next generation of builders, technology alone is not what millennials are seeking. Rather, they seek to use technology in ways that support more engaging and meaningful lives. Studies also show that millennials place a high value on collaborative work cultures, relationship building, and integrated work-life balance. At Brasfield & Gorrie, we emphasize the importance of relationships, not only with fellow employees but with everyone we interact with on a daily basis. Our aim is to provide a meaningful environment with a group of close-knit employees who have common goals and strive to be the best. Ultimately, as we seek to recruit and retain top talent amid a changing industry landscape, our culture and values will remain the foundation of our ability to maintain a strong workforce.
As VDC and other technologies continue to transform construction, we are well positioned to leverage this opportunity to make construction an appealing career choice for future generations. Doing so will be critical to continuing the wave of innovation and building a strong workforce for years to come.