- To address the growing skilled-labor shortage, construction and manufacturing firms are placing the hope in young talent
- The aim is to equip each new generation with the skills and technological expertise to become agents of change, fill the skills gap, and create a better world.
- The WorldSkills competition is the biggest vocational and skills training event in the world.
Michael Jones, senior project engineer at Balfour Beatty—Britain’s second largest construction and civil engineering company—knows just how crucial it is for companies like his to address the skilled-labor shortage if they want to mitigate environmental crises and other challenges of the construction industry.
He believes it’s vital for Balfour Beatty employees to keep learning, adopt new tools, and have an open mind when problems arise. “I’m convinced that perseverance has exponential benefits and that problem-solving is an essential ability for working toward a better world,” he says.
According to Jones, the skills of the future depend heavily on research and development. He says that engineers, scientists, and farmers are the true mainstays of life and that these professions will have to focus on a variety of related, emerging technologies: satellite systems, artificial intelligence, supercomputers, mathematics, CAD and CAM, electronics, medicine, and more.
Balfour Beatty partnered with the Worldskills Competition, which took place between September and November 2022, to encourage newcomers to join the construction and infrastructure sector. And it’s leading by example. Mona Nawaz, a Balfour Beatty participant acting as the BIM/Revit coordinator for the UK team, took sixth place and the Medal of Excellence at the international competition.
Jonas Englbrecht was part of the German team as an intern at Krones, which manufactures bottling and production lines for packaging liquid foods and beverages. “It’s about working with nature, not against it,” he says of the skills that will be needed to achieve carbon neutrality. “I see the key as observing nature and copying the way it works without destroying it.”
He adds that it’s essential to think about how to create as little waste as possible and extract energy in the cleanest way possible. “These are, I believe, key skills that will not only guide how we approach contemporary challenges in sustainability and progress—and foster economic growth—but also provide jobs in a wide range of sectors,” he says.
How to Face Current and Future Challenges to Improve the World
The 46th edition of the WorldSkills Competition was quite different from past competitions. The event was supposed to take place in Shanghai but had to be canceled because of the pandemic. In response, the global WorldSkills network came together to develop alternative ways to compete and celebrate the skills of its competitors—as it has every two years for almost 75 years.
Thanks to an experienced, innovative network, WorldSkills organized the competition to take place in 15 countries and regions under the name WorldSkills Competition 2022 Special Edition. Offering participants the chance to promote excellence in their professions without sacrificing the level of competition was paramount. Contests were consequently held in several cities around the world, including Bordeaux, France; Wrexham, Wales; Soest, Germany; Kyoto, Japan; and Cleveland.
More than 1,100 competitors from more than 57 countries and regions were expected to participate, highlighting young innovators and motivating them to develop their technical and professional skills.
Combating the Talent Shortage Through Skills Development
The goal of WorldSkills is to help young people develop high standards of professional skills and abilities. This addresses a major challenge that the world is facing: the skills shortage.
Pandemic aside, the labor market has experienced many disruptions in the past few years: an aging workforce, the search for meaning, a wave of automation, and the widening gap of income equality. Given the rate of population growth, as many as 1 billion people will need to be trained in next-generation skills by 2030.
In this context, WorldSkills is the recruitment platform of choice for future talent: a place where countries and institutions have the opportunity to learn from each other. It’s equipping the next generation technological expertise to face the skills shortage, but it’s also enabling participants to become agents of change to create a better world.
“Technology is the main tool that will help us progress,” Jones says. “It is what allows you to reduce production time and costs, to visualize 3D models, to communicate effectively, to share tasks and ideas, or to be more precise.” He adds that in addition to environmental challenges, the next generation must be prepared to deal with ever-evolving technology. “They must embrace it and use it to drive economic growth and accelerate innovation for the benefit of the planet,” he says.
Accelerating Digital Construction Through Technology
That’s why Autodesk has been the main industry sponsor of the WorldSkills competition for 10 years, providing expertise and technologies at no cost. Autodesk customers need their employees’ skills to be ahead of the curve for their businesses to adapt to technological changes.
The 25-year-old French building information modeling (BIM) champion Pierre Loir would also agree with these principles of ever-advancing technology. Loir is BIM manager at Eiffage Construction and won bronze at the world championships for his performance in the field of digital construction. He is hopeful that WorldSkills will help the French construction industry shine on an international level.
Loir’s project for the French national final was a partial modeling of a regional headquarters of the French Building Federation (FFB). At the international final, he did the same for two buildings with a total of 16 apartments. Both projects included the modules for BIM Configuration, Modeling and Collaboration, Model Coordination, File Documentation and Export, and Scheduling and Quantities. The tools prescribed were Autodesk Revit, Navisworks Manage, and Construction Cloud.
“WorldSkills is the perfect place to learn how not to get caught up in the vicious cycle of unnecessary, time-consuming tasks,” Loir says. “More than anything else, common sense and support are what the new generation needs to be prepared for the future—and that’s just what this competition provides.”
The next step for the competitors around the world is Lyon, France, in 2024, followed by Shanghai in 2026. The end goal, however, will always follow the vision of creating a platform that highlights real skills and talents while celebrating diversity. So far, WorldSkills has achieved this with flying colors.