Next Generation Digital Skills

by Dr Graham Kelly | May 3, 2024 |  4 min read

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Developing digital skills has been a priority in the construction sector for the past decade, given the rapid technological change across all areas of the design and build process. But one could argue that the need for digital skills starts before the design stage! Digital should be the driver for all thought processes at conceptual stage with an emphasis placed on the client and their requirements.

Digital skills are an enabler of all projects yet despite a growing desire for digital competencies, skills gaps remain. Which is why there is a need to look at education to begin the digital skills journey rather than wait for in work training and upskilling.

The Forbes IT Skills Gap Report 2023 shone a spotlight on technology skills in the UK workforce. It revealed a growing need among businesses for tech expertise, but also showed that for a variety of reasons there is currently a shortfall in meeting this need. 35 per cent of businesses said competition in the jobs market is a major challenge, the scarcity of skilled candidates and the number of opportunities in these sectors make recruitment and retention of staff a demanding task.

The construction sector is a prime example of this issue and suffers digital skills shortages. The demand for digital skills is greater than what is available within our workforce. Therefore, there are several opportunities we can consider when it comes to bridging gaps and artificial intelligence (AI) is one of them!

Many aspects of technology, from AI to data analytics and management, are rapidly evolving and while AI is by far the most in demand skill for businesses, it is closely followed by other valuable technology skills.

At BIM Academy we are working with many higher and further education providers to develop new learning and development programmes for digital skills. The next generation of construction industry professionals need to be digitally equipped for the demands of the changing digital built environment.

We have recently been involved in a graduate design competition that used AI as part of the delivery method, to encourage students to use AI as a design tool as well as authoring training for universities delivering digital construction courses.

It is also encouraging to see that government funding has recently been announced for the further development of Level 4 HNC’s in Digital Construction, too many new entrants to the industry are not digital skills ready and more work needs to be done in this area.

In 2023 the construction sector accounted for 6 per cent of the UK’s GDP, it is therefore a critical element in UK economy. And to allow this to continue to grow we must ensure our understanding of digitalisation in construction is more than just Building Information Modelling (BIM) or big data – although they are important – but rather a combination of all digital technologies and processes that will assist all construction sector supply chain players.

It is not just the younger generations that need to upskill in digital ways of working, business leaders need skills to implement digital change and create the right digital strategies and culture. It’s about enabling top down as well as bottom up change.

Whether people are leaving or returning to education, digital skills growth will help them develop the capabilities they need to keep up with constant change in construction.

The construction sector has witnessed immense change in the past decade and digital is set to continue to evolve a rapid pace.  Every forward thinking firm should be investing in its capacity to digitalise. Changing ways of working can be a tremendous challenge and requires investments to update systems and to re skill people. But if done strategically, it can add significant value.

The need for next generation of digital skills is upon us and we must adapt quickly and recognise where we can make the quick wins, for long term benefits.



About the author

Dr Graham Kelly

Managing Director, BIM Academy

Graham is responsible for leading strategy and implementation of digital transformation strategies specific to clients’ real needs. This goes beyond BIM: it is as much about the people as it is about the technology. He has over 10 years’ experience in construction and academia, also completing a PhD in early 2015.