The Future of Work is Now: Is the Construction Industry Ready?

In early 2021 Deloitte was commissioned by the Autodesk Foundation to help identify the labour markets most vulnerable to technological disruption in the Asia Pacific region. The report, The Future of Work is Now: is APAC Ready? Identifies those most at risk and proposes interventions which can be scaled and adapted to different circumstances across our region.  

The current COVID-19 pandemic, and the challenges it has brought, has accelerated digital trends. Heavy restrictions have been faced in Melbourne and Sydney throughout the year, and this has caused us to consider: 

  • New models of work throughout the economy 
  • Specific to construction, new methods of connecting with each employee and team from the office to onsite across the workforce, and through our supply chain
  • The demand drivers for more employees; however, there has been a real dichotomy with restricted activities as this has made it hard to find workers


Figure 1: Number of people employed in Australia (‘000s)

Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics, Deloitte Access Economics


Figure 2: Job ads index, 100=decade average to Nov-19

Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics, Deloitte Access Economics


Considering the last point, finding and retaining skilled workers has been an ongoing concern. The number of job advertisements as reported by the Australian Bureau of Statistics and Deloitte Access Economics have risen highly in all sectors and stayed at high levels, and unemployment is at an all-time low in Australia.


Figure 3: Number of unemployed persons per job vacancy

Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics, Deloitte Access Economics


This year we have experienced a dual labour market where some could not work due to restrictions, while some are adjusting to new roles, and many businesses still could not fill vacancies. In October this year, Infrastructure Australia released their Infrastructure Market Capacity report which stated that up to 105,000 well-paid jobs risk being unfilled by 2023 due to global competition for workers.

Infrastructure Australia forecasted a shortage of 70,000 engineers and architects, 15,000 structural and civil trades, and 19,000 Project Managers. This makes the sector one of the hardest hit, with looming skills gaps on public projects across the country, putting more pressure on already-stressed budgets and time frames. This impact has a knock-on effect to other parts of the commercial construction industry as the sector aims to become an industry of first choice for entrants. 


Automation in Construction 

The Future of Work report covers three core components:  

  1. Impacts of automation going beyond likelihood of automation 
  2. The readiness for automation and how countries are prepared, and  
  3. Initiatives to take action as one size does not fit all, particularly across the APAC region

Construction topped the list as the industry most likely to be hardest hit by the coming wave of automation. The industry had the highest proportion of routine, manual tasks, with a high potential for automation. 


Figure 4: Impact Index result by industry


It’s also noted that Australia is the most prepared and second least at-risk country from automation. Its investment in its future workforce is a significant contributor to this result. However, as noted above, the future workforce is still at risk. Continued investment is needed, particularly in upskilling, to stay in this position and help ensure our country remains competitive in the region. 


Figure 5: Potential impact of automation and preparedness, by country

To be in the best position to benefit from automation, individuals, businesses, countries and regions need to focus on three key opportunity areas. These are identified as foresight and mindset, skills and learning, and access and inclusion. 



Based on The Future of Work research, there are four key insights about how to address the skills gap: 

  1. While training for highly specialised skills will be essential, it’s more important to shift the skills development focus to foundational, analytic, problem solving, creative and collaborative capabilities that can be transferred from role to role – because the shelf life of specific skills will continue to shrink. 
  2. The pace of change means workers need to engage in continuous skills upgrades – that’s how they will ensure stability, and it will require them imagining and navigating a very different career path. 
  3. We must shorten the distance between learning and work, which means embedding learning into the workplace by enabling workers to study new skills and experience different environments. 
  4. Addressing systemic challenges: government, industry and academia need to work better together to help people get the right skills to fill these open jobs. 


Addressing the skills and capabilities gaps

There are opportunities available that organisations like Autodesk can address with industry to close the gaps identified in the research, taking into account current market conditions. At Autodesk, we approach it with three things in mind: 

  1. What TRAINING can we put in place to allow people to constantly upgrade their skills? 
  2. What TOOLS help shorten the distance between training and work? 
  3. And how should private sector, public sector, education institutions, among others, PARTNER to address the systemic challenges in collaboration? 


To support training, Autodesk launched our new learning and credentialing platform at Autodesk University last year. The platform is designed to make training personalised and transformative. Workers can get credentials on their terms and timelines and build personalised learning pathways that help them develop the skills they need. 

Autodesk credentials make learning more accessible, measurable, and relevant for customers. Industry recognised certifications help workers to market their job readiness. Whilst the sector has foundational entry-level qualifications, the opportunity for partnerships that support the business with micro-credentials enables practical courses that can address the needs of the company.   


Autodesk Command Map is designed to watch how you use the Autodesk products, highlight the areas in which you’re proficient and the areas you need to improve on. It also offers benchmarks against industry standards to help you focus in the right areas and to use the tool to its full potential to reap the rewards of the investment.  


This takes many forms and is arguably the most complex because it takes many different parties to address the systemic problems. According to the World Economic Forum, a collaborative effort could reach 77% of all workers that need reskilling – versus just 25% if the private sector were to do this alone.  


The Future of Work is Now 

At Autodesk, we believe that automation technology, including artificial intelligence, will be required to help businesses and society meet the demands of our growing urbanisation and global population. We recognise that technological change will drive transformation – and we are committed to helping companies and their employees adapt and thrive. We believe employees prosper by adopting a mindset of continuous learning, acquiring the most in-demand skills and securing the most fulfilling roles. We are committed to collaborating with employers, the start-up community, the vocational education and training sector, universities and government organisations to advance workforce adaptability, as we invest in solutions and policies that complement employers and employees to adjust in an ever changing environment. 

Autodesk can support you and your organisation. The Future of Work report can be accessed here.  


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