Tackling skills shortages with technology – is it the best way?

Many believe that the construction industry faces a shortage of skilled workers. This is something that the British Automatic Fire Sprinkler Association (BAFSA) are specifically trying to address, for the sprinkler industry, with their new L2 Sprinkler Installer course and word of a L3 course also. BAFSA feel that the next generation of workers have many options – their key idea is to make the sprinkler industry as accessible and welcoming as possible.

The construction industry accounts for approximately 7% (£110 billion) of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and this is growing; currently at its strongest level since 2007. Yet in high construction demand areas, such as London, opportunities are being turned down due to this shortage of skilled labour. A shortage of skills in key sectors will have massive impacts; projects being placed on hold as well as escalating labour costs for those in demand. Charles Mullins, chief executive of Pimlico Plumbers, states that a skilled plumber can earn up to £100,000 a year due to this.

Some blame the recession for a lack of apprentices and ask the government and schools to promote the trades directly. In 2013 only 7,280 apprentices completed their training – it is suggested that 35,000 are needed just to maintain a simple “stand still”. This is a staggering shortfall. By 2020 the Royal Academy of Engineering suggests that Britain will need a million new engineers and technicians – this would mean doubling the number of graduates and apprentices to fill the roles. To add to this further Brexit may impact on our future pool of EU labour as well as any labour currently in employment here. Brexit secretary David Davis has spoken of a “fluctuating” immigration system that will rise and fall to meet the UK’s needs – but how this would actually work remains unclear.

It would appear that technology may be about to offer a helping hand, and incredibly quickly; drones are being introduced to carry out work done on site by surveyors. The Environment Agency already utilises this advancing technology to carry out some of their large-scale surveying work; with PricewaterhouseCoopers suggesting this avenue could be worth as much as £36.6bn, in infrastructure alone, by the mid-2020s.

We know there are concerns that “machines will take over” – but drones are something that could potentially help out. Not only will this consideration tackle a part of the skill shortage, but it will also make work considerably safer. No more climbing unsafe structures, or chartering buildings filled with asbestos; now a drone can be sent up 50 floors and any progress monitored efficiently; as well as large areas being covered quickly. Of course, no machine can replace an experienced member of staff and what they have to offer, but it would appear that a drone could be used to free up team members for other aspects of the role.

Do you have any feelings on the skills shortage? What do you feel should be done to tackle it? Should technology be considered for replacing skilled labour?

Please let us know your thoughts.

Website – http://www.compcofire.co.uk   |    Twitter – @CompcoFire 

Check out this blog post and more on the Compco Fire Systems website!

Posted by the Pogofilms team | Written by @CompcoFire

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