Despite talk of a digital revolution across construction, there is an unavoidable paradox holding the workforce back.
Those who can transform the industry’s culture forever may have the skills and progressive attitude for change, but not the practical or leadership experience. Conversely, the older generation who do have practical and leadership experience are apathetic, sceptical or worse: cynical about digital innovation.
As a result, the digital revolution is at least a generation away. Meanwhile there’s a large demographic that sits in the middle, watching to see which way the pendulum will swing: towards tradition or revolution.
While the BIM and digital construction world evolves and the government flip-flops over its declared ambitions, growing client demand and the ongoing skills shortage have seen the rise of ‘BIM warriors’, who often create as many problems as they solve.
What’s a BIM warrior?
BIM warriors are those who, despite their tender years and lack of experience, have been unfairly burdened with the responsibility of solving the systemic problems and transformational challenges of moving to digital construction.
Usually highly motivated, confident and assured, these warriors form a big part of the solution. Primarily made up of the millennial generation, their ambition and skill are the keys to unlocking the industry from its current confines.
Their mastery of social media creates innovative communication channels, while application software drives creativity through technology and innovation, and parametric thinking creates a culture of problem-solvers and solution-providers.
Collaboration, the environment and social justice are important to this generation, and it’s this that will make the difference in the medium-to-long term as we shift towards a digital future.
Maximising our potential
So what’s missing?
Undoubtedly, great designers need the ability to communicate, influence and engineer solutions, all of which come from gaining experience of working on real projects with real people.
Software proficiency is not enough; strategic influencing as well as analytical and critical thinking are skills that are learned over time.
Lack of investment in training and development has blighted our industry for years. Now it has caught up and overtaken us. Developing skills through experience takes time to nurture and the school of hard knocks breeds resilience and tenacity.
But there is good news.
If we can also train and develop the more experienced workforce to use new software and create a culture of collaboration, integrated working and smart procurement, we can have our cake and eat it. And most importantly, we can give our customers what they really want.
A shift in people’s mindsets about digital progression is coming, and the efficiency, cost reductions and time savings will soon be fully realised. But it’s not going to happen overnight.
The concern is that this is a generational issue, and that until the next generation has gained the experience needed to lead the way, we will remain at a standstill.
Paul Newby is engineering services director at SES engineering services