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Digital skills gap a challenge for Australia’s construction industry

Digital skills gap a challenge for Australia's construction industry

Amid economic uncertainty, the Australian construction industry continues to face significant challenges that impede productivity, with the digital skills gap emerging as a prominent obstacle.

Autodesk’s Constructing tomorrow: building a dynamic workforce for the future eBook delves into the impact of these challenges on productivity in the industry, marked by inefficiencies, delays and cost overruns in project execution.

Sumit Oberoi, senior manager, industry strategist, APAC at Autodesk, highlighted that the construction industry still confronts difficulties in the aftermath of the pandemic, such as an undersupply of skilled labour, costly materials and supply chain disruptions.

“These challenges are being underpinned by a lack of digital skills and an ageing labour force – two key barriers to digital adoption,” said Oberoi.

The digital skills shortage

In the 2023 Deloitte and Autodesk report, State of Digital Adoption in Construction, 41 per cent of surveyed businesses cited uncertainty about the skills and capabilities required for technology as a common barrier to digital adoption.

The challenge of a digital skills shortage extends beyond the construction industry. The APEC Digital Skills Gap survey found 75 per cent of businesses across all sectors identified a significant digital skills gap in their respective countries. This presents a serious obstacle for businesses in the construction and engineering sector, as they contend with fierce competition from other industries, all vying for a limited pool of talent.

Optimism for the future

Despite the broader macro-economic challenges confronting the construction industry, businesses remain optimistic about the future.

In the recent State of Digital Adoption in Construction 2023 report, it was found that 60 per cent of businesses surveyed across the Asia Pacific region were expecting positive revenue growth over the 2023 financial year.

Many of these businesses are looking to improve efficiency by increasing technology adoption. Nearly nine in 10 (89 per cent) of businesses reported investments or purchases of new technology during the 2022 financial year.

“There is a sense of optimism in the industry, with organisations investing in new technologies that provide opportunities for change such as common data environment and cloud-based project management software,” said Oberoi. “These tools have the potential to increase productivity, enhance competitiveness, improve safety outcomes for the construction workforce and deliver a significant return on investment.”

“Embracing technology can help shed the perception of an industry behind the times, foster innovation and attract tech-savvy talent.”

Addressing the digital skills divide

To effect a transformative change, businesses need to confront the existing digital skills divide. As highlighted in the eBook, shortages in skilled labour underscore the urgency of cultural reform. Embracing digitalisation becomes crucial in drawing a more diverse pool of skills essential for transformation, positioning technology-forward companies as more appealing to the next generation of workers.

“A key factor in successful digital transformation is a technology partner that can offer comprehensive support, training, and a commitment to keeping the workforce up to date with the latest advancements, as well as helping to build resilience among employees,” said Oberoi.

“Technology plays a significant role in empowering workers – the effective adoption and use of new digital technology will play a crucial role in realising revenue growth, and for business’ survival.”

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Thomas Bierbaum, APAC manager, customer success at Autodesk Construction Solutions, said that implementing new technologies at an enterprise level requires large-scale sweeping change and extensive product training.

“For successful digital transformation, businesses need to partner with technology providers that offer not only ongoing support but also possess a comprehensive knowledge of the industry,” said Bierbaum. “Committing to using these tools is not a decision that a customer will make lightly, so it’s really important for them that they have much more than a software vendor.”

“They want a trusted, loyal advisor that listens to them and guides them through this journey of digitalisation.”

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