My five reflections on Digital Construction Week

CITB joined technology giants, industry bodies and built environment professionals at Digital Construction Week. Future Skills Manager Ben Lever gives his reflections on the key opportunities and issues facing construction.

Digital and manufacturing-led processes present big opportunities for construction. From BIM and offsite construction to advances in AI leading to robot bricklayers and autonomous diggers, new technologies are gaining a firm foothold across the sector.

As an industry we’re facing both an ageing population and the possibility of future skills shortages. The adoption of new technology and processes provides a potential solution that enables construction firms to work smarter and deliver much-needed productivity gains.

I was delighted to be part of team CITB at Digital Construction Week. Over two days we hosted a stand promoting Careers, Standards and Qualifications, and Training and Development. We used the time to share research on Immersive Learning and Offsite Construction and Stephen Radley, Director of Policy, joined a panel to discuss how training can keep pace with the needs of a modernised industry.

My five reflections

  • The power of Immersive Learning. This year’s event showed how augmented and virtual reality technology in training has progressed thanks to increased awareness, more affordable hardware and targeted applications. However, most important is a better understanding of how to include Immersive Learning as part of a blended learning approach.
  • Dissolving sector siloes: What was clear from mingling in between the various stands and talks is the degree to which digital dissolves traditional sector siloes. From data-led insights to new production processes, realising the potential of digital requires multi-disciplinary teams to not just work together but forge new hybrid functions. Digital is driving the age of the multi-discipline worker, where behaviours and attitudes are as important as technical skills.
  • Appealing to all ages: It was fantastic to see such a wide range of people, from students to experienced tradespeople and managers. I was particularly inspired by a group from Salford University’s Construction Management course who’d requested that a module on Innovative Construction be included in their syllabus and were there as part of their assignment.
  • Pioneering providers: I met with some inspiring training organisations who’ve grasped the need and opportunity to deliver skills for digital and offsite methods. More often than not it required them to develop innovative approaches such as employers setting themselves up as providers, partnerships between colleges to ensure access to the right resources and collaboration with tech partners to teach the latest applications.
  • Support is needed: Policy Director Stephen Radley emphasised as part of the future skills panel discussion that CITB is committed to helping organisations facing challenges, starting with an employer-led review and development of qualifications in offsite and digital skills. This must be followed by a strategy for supporting take-up, with funding to ensure tutors and assessors are in place, teaching materials are provided and training bodies, employers and tech firms are brought closer together.

About the author

Ben Lever is the Future Skills Manager at CITB. 

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