Finding José: A VDC Journey

546,000. That's the number of jobs the construction industry needs to fill on top of the normal hiring pace. 

If that doesn't make you concerned (maybe even a bit panicky) about the labor shortage, consider that one out of four of all construction workers are older than 55, and four out of ten new workers who enter the field are at entry-level and low-skill positions. 

Clearly, the construction sector is in dire need of skilled workers, and if we don't solve this problem soon, we risk jeopardizing future projects and economic growth.

Using visuals to attract and engage construction pros

Pondering the question of how we can address the labor shortage brought me back to the reasons why I chose to enter the construction industry. In my case, a big part of the decision can be traced back to my love for visual learning.

I chose construction because I wanted to be able to see what I was working on. Saying, "I built that," feels good. I wanted to learn faster and was attracted to applying my tech skills and using visuals as a path to learn, understand, and solve problems.

And here's the thing: most people—65% of the population—are also visual learners. Humans learn faster with visuals; we're able to retain 80% of what we see compared to 20% of what we hear. Human brains process visuals 60,000 times faster than text and can register 36,000 visual messages per hour. It's incredible.

Even more exciting is the fact that construction is brimming with visual technologies. I've dedicated most of my career to the use of building information models to support the construction life cycle. Virtual design & construction tools unlock the power of our ability to learn and comprehend data through visuals, and these technology solutions appeal to the next generation of workers. 

We just need to do a better job of communicating and sharing these visual tools with our teams, particularly those out on the job site. 

Bringing visuals and data to the field

At DPR, we're passionate about driving technology adoption among our field teams. To illustrate how we do this, I'd like to introduce you to Jose Guadalupe Medina Rivera, an hourly craft worker on the tallest tower in Texas, just down the street from DPR's Austin office. 

When I received the email from Autodesk informing me that he was DPR's top mobile model viewer, I was thrilled. Seeing someone in the field put these tools to good use was exciting. 

The importance of taking care of craft

When I dug deeper to figure out what exactly caused the spike in mobile viewer usage for Jose, I discovered that a considerable component was the dedicated resources that we provide craft workers at DPR. 

This includes benefits like paid time off that enhance work-life balance. We also offer training programs to help employees in the skilled trades have a true career path and receive nationally recognized certifications. The objective is to expand and deepen the builder's knowledge and digital literacy.

Additionally, we support craft workers through translations, even in real-time in some meetings. We see to it that they have access to mobile devices, email accounts, and streaming videos on model navigation. Trainings are available in English and Spanish, making materials accessible and easy to understand. This was foundational for Jose. 

Implementing these is fairly simple, but they have a massive impact on the community of builders in the field. Moreover, they help support our connected construction efforts so that field and office teams are aligned.

Final words

To overcome the labor shortage, we as an industry must innovate to attract and retain skilled workers. 

The good news is that there are things we can do to attract more folks to construction. 

Leveraging visual technologies and providing comprehensive training—like the efforts at DPR with Jose—enable us to engage a tech-savvy, visually oriented workforce. 

These initiatives teach us that by emphasizing collaboration and technology adoption, we can build a resilient, skilled workforce poised to tackle future challenges.

Learn more about DPR’s VDC journey by watching Jacob’s full AU 2023 Theater Talk here.

Jacob Skrobarczyk

Jacob Skrobarczyk leads development, implementation, and support for VDC technology at DPR Construction. He has over 15 years of experience working as a project engineer, estimator, BIM coordinator, and VDC leader. Jacob’s primary goal is to enable DPR’s people to use data-rich models to coordinate, quantify, plan, and track work. He strives to open minds to new ideas and to promote creative solutions for simplifying the construction process.