Digital Builder Ep 37: The Power of Digitization on the Jobsite

We all know technology enables teams to work efficiently, but have you also considered the role of tech in attracting fresh talent to the construction trades?

Our latest Digital Builder episode dives deeper into digitalization in construction and covers how technology helps firms be more competitive—both on the jobsite and the job market. 

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In our latest episode, we were joined by Ron McGuire, Program Administrator at International Training Institute (ITI) and Ken Schneider, Training Specialist at United Association (UA). As two people who work with construction trainees and apprentices, Ron and Ken have seen firsthand the power of technology in advancing projects and attracting young people to their organizations supporting construction tradeworkers. 

The digitalization of construction sites

Technology and digitalization have permeated just about every sector—including, of course, construction. For this reason, organizations like the ITI and UA are working hard to ensure their apprentices possess the tech know-how needed to perform on the job site today. 

"What we've been doing at the UA is really pushing for all types of job site technology, as well as the design factor," says Ken. "One of the things I've been pushing for over the last six years is to get our members comfortable with Revit, as it helps contractors do a better job."

ITI is in a similar boat, which is why it arms apprentices with devices that facilitate digital processes.

"All of our apprentices have been getting iPads. That way, everything is digital, including all our curriculums. What's more, all the plans are in the cloud, including specifications, submittals, etc.," shares Ron. 

He continues, "Technology is not going away. We either have to adapt and teach the next generation or fall behind."

Ken agrees and reinforces the need for organizations and companies to adapt. 

"The burden is on us to ensure we have the curriculum that excites young people, motivates them, and moves things forward."

Using technology to get younger generations of workers on board

Digital natives—i.e., people born or brought up during the age of digital technology—are increasingly entering the workforce. 

This generation of workers grew up surrounded by technology, so showcasing the use of tech at your organization is crucial to attracting techology enthusiasts. 

"If we look at technology and what it's done to the construction industry, we see that it's really evolved," says Ron. 

"Not to mention that construction schedules these days have gotten much shorter. We're still doing the same amount of work in less time. We need to be more efficient, which is where digital solutions come in. The effective use of technology brings the younger generation to us."

He continues, "We're not drawing things on paper anymore. Showing young folks what we're doing with iPads and other technologies will generate interest."

Meeting labor demand through technology

The labor shortage has been top of mind for many construction employers, and while the industry hasn't completely solved it yet, technology—and training people on it—can alleviate some of the pain caused by worker shortages.

This is why the UA and ITI are doubling down on technology training. 

"If we can get people trained to do digital drawings, we're going to save labor hours, which releases a little bit of pressure of the labor shortage," explains Ken.

Ron weighs in and comments on the importance of keeping up with tech advancements. After all, new features, capabilities, and devices are constantly coming out. 

"An iPad is one thing, but to use a robotic station or 3D laser scanner, you've got to have the knowledge. So it's extremely critical to train these individuals. The bottom line is our contractors are going to continue to bid these bid on projects, so we have to make sure the workforce is capable of doing them." 

The biggest trends in construction going forward

When asked what trends they're most excited about, both guests brought up robotics as one of the most promising technologies in construction. 

"Something that excites me when I think of sheet metal trade is robotics," says Ken.

He sees robots making a significant impact within 5-10 years and says that it has the power to streamline daily repetitive tasks. 

"Robotics will impact our shops—whether it's a sheet metal shopper or a pipe fitter shop. It's definitely something that's out there. And I think it will eventually make its way to the jobsite."

Ron, for his part, says that robotics can revolutionize safety in construction. Whether it's through automated safety checks or assisting folks with lifting heavy things on the construction site, robotics can be used to improve health, safety, and quality of life.   

"There's a lot of things going on on the robotic side that's actually going to make the jobsite safer and our members safer. And I think that's huge." 

New podcast episode every two weeks

Digital Builder is hosted by me, Eric Thomas. Remember, new episodes of Digital Builder go live every two weeks.

If you can't get enough of digitalization in construction, catch the full podcast episode of Digital Builder to hear more from Ron and Ken.

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Eric Thomas

Eric is a Sr. Multimedia Content Marketing Manager at Autodesk and hosts the Digital Builder podcast. He has worked in the construction industry for over a decade at top ENR General Contractors and AEC technology companies. Eric has worked for Autodesk for nearly 5 years and joined the company via the PlanGrid acquisition. He has held numerous marketing roles at Autodesk including managing global industry research projects and other content marketing programs. Today Eric focuses on multimedia programs with an emphasis on video.