Continuous Learning in Construction: The Foundation for Embracing Change

continuous learning in construction

What makes a construction company successful? There are many elements at play, from superior service to effective leadership and top-notch talent. While their strategies and client base may differ, leading construction companies have one thing in common: they invest in their employees. In an industry that is evolving at warp speed, it’s easy to get left behind in the race for talent and skillsets. To stay ahead of the pack, you must put learning and development at the forefront.

A recent study on the future of work in construction performed by Deloitte at Autodesk University uncovered similar findings. Over 1,100 participants highlighted the need for construction firms to emphasize the importance of continuous learning as part of their work. These same participants indicated a preference for working for companies where continuous learning is a priority with accessible training opportunities provided.

Why is continuous learning such a strength for construction companies in today’s market? How does it help to generate more successful business outcomes? We’ll answer these questions and more below as we dive deeper into the value of online learning below.

Why Construction Training and Continuous Learning Programs are Imperative for Construction Today

COVID-19 has impacted how nearly all of us work, and construction professionals are no exception. Digital transformation is more important than ever in the industry in order to provide workers with effective and efficient ways to do their jobs. For construction firms, this reality means accelerating the adoption of new technologies, including AI and automation. While some fear job loss, these new technologies don’t necessarily mean construction jobs will disappear. Instead, they reveal new opportunities to work smarter and more effectively.

The World Economic Forum expects AI to create more jobs than it will take away, stating that “while automation may displace 75 million jobs by 2020, 133 million new jobs will emerge.” Careers in building AI solutions and data science are on the rise, but so is the demand for professionals skilled in using and implementing AI.

Even before COVID-19, AI and automation were top priorities for the construction industry. Barbara Jackson, Director of the Burns School of Real Estate and Construction Management at the University of Denver, Colorado, stresses the reality of automation in construction, “One of the things I see as a hard trend, meaning it is absolutely coming, is robotics and automation implemented into the workforce we have currently. I think we need to do a better job at proactively preparing for it, both in the creation of new jobs to supplement that automation and robotics, but also to get people ready for the idea of it.”

But are companies ready for the shift? Deloitte’s Global Human Capital Trends Report indicates that only a small percentage of organizations are. Eighty-one percent of respondents in the report expect AI to increase or increase significantly over the next three years. Still, only 26% feel their organizations are ready or very ready to handle its impact.

Training and learning opportunities can help firms prepare for the looming influx of AI. As a response to the pandemic, we’ve seen the industry place a greater emphasis on preparing for the future and building new skills. The 2020 Autodesk and AGC of America Workforce Survey reveals that firms are integrating technology and data into their operations to move innovation efforts forward. Twenty-one percent of the firms surveyed are increasing the use of learning programs with online and video components while 19% report initiating or increasing online and mobile training operations. Perhaps most notably, only 3% of firms stated they have decreased or eliminated spending on training and development.

Is Continuous Learning the Answer to a Better Workforce?

In its broadest sense, continuous learning is acquiring new skills and honing existing ones through education. While employees can look for opportunities to learn outside of the workplace, the most effective businesses provide those opportunities to their workforce through programs, workshops, courses, etc. Continuous learning programs are just as advantageous for the firm as a whole as they are for the employees.

Deloitte’s research reveals that continuous learning must be integrated into the long-term business strategy of firms. To produce positive business outcomes, the workforce must stay up-to-date on technological advancements. Learning and development programs allow employees to acquire new skills proactively and put them into practice on the job. Without such a program in place, firms risk losing client work due to skills shortages and operating in a reactive sense to market demands.

Continuous learning programs are still relatively new in the industry. The fast-paced nature of construction and tight project deadlines can lead to development initiatives being put on the back burner. The pandemic has revealed just how critical it is to be able to innovate and pivot quickly to unexpected changes.

6 Focus Areas for Your Continuous Learning Program

So, what topics should you include in your continuous learning program? Focus on the following six areas as you build your program:

1. Technology

A focus on technology likely comes at no surprise. The construction industry may not be full of early adopters, but there has been a significant push toward innovation in recent years. As you develop the technology portion of your program, be sure to include the following topics:

  • Building Information Modeling (BIM)
  • Virtual and Augmented Reality
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • 3D Printing
  • Wearables
  • Collaborative tools and platforms

It’s critical to not only teach workers how to use these technologies on the job but also how to integrate them into new and existing processes.

2. Leadership

We tend to think of leadership traits as something you’re born with. However, everyone can acquire the skills needed to lead, whether it’s as an executive, manager, team lead, or an individual contributor. To remain competitive, companies must continue to invest in their current leaders while growing their future set of leaders simultaneously.

Topics of interest in the area of leadership include:

  • Project management
  • Employee engagement
  • Servant leadership
  • Communication
  • Diversity training
  • Strategic planning

3. Project delivery and strategy

Construction firms must deliver projects on time, in scope, and on budget to succeed. However, managing the ins and outs of projects requires specific skill sets, including design-build and integrated project delivery. Consider providing training on both the broader aspects of project strategy as well as internal processes.

4. Advanced trade training

The most effective employees bring skills acquired through external training inside the organization and apply them in a way that results in more positive business outcomes. Integrate external certifications and workshops into your program for greater results. Industry associations are excellent starting places for finding relevant opportunities near you.

5. Conferences and summits

As you collaborate with local and industry organizations, you’ll be able to tap into networking events, conferences, and summits. Many of these events are now offered in a virtual format, allowing more employees to participate from a safe distance. Bookmark the following websites as you research potential conferences to attend:

6. Internal corporate programs

You can also bring the learning events home with internal corporate programs. Consider partnering with a trade school, association, or vendor to provide training on pertinent topics. You can always start on a small scale with mini webinars, Lunch and Learns, and breakout seminars before building a larger internal event.

Change Is Here: Make it Work for You with Continuous Learning in Construction

Change is constant and can be scary. But you make change work for you by embracing new technologies and advancements in the field. A continuous learning program will keep front-line employees and leadership engaged in the latest developments while encouraging your organization as a whole to embrace innovation.

To get started on building or enhancing your program, join us for fresh ideas and actionable insights at Autodesk University (AU) from November 17-20. AU is 100% virtual this year, and there’s no cost to attend. You do need to register to save your seat, so go ahead and register now!

Grace Ellis

As Manager of Content Marketing Strategy at Autodesk and Editor in Chief of the Digital Builder Blog, Grace has nearly 15 years of experience creating world-class content for technology firms. She has been working within the construction technology space for the last 6+ years and is passionate about empowering industry professionals with cutting-edge tools and leading strategies that improve the quality of their jobs and lives.