Next industrial revolution set to transform more than half a million construction jobs

The construction industry could see more than 600,000 jobs automated and workers re-skilled for new roles by 2040.

UK construction could deliver an extra £25bn annually to the UK economy by 2040 if its productivity ‘gap’ is closed.

Mace has outlined three key recommendations to ensure that the UK’s construction sector has the infrastructure to deliver the skills it needs by 2040.

Depending on the pace of technological change, Mace estimates that up to 600,000 jobs in the sector could be replaced by new technology in the next two decades. The research has been published today as part of Mace’s latest Insights report, entitled ‘Moving to Industry 4.0: A skills revolution’.

Industry 4.0 is the collective term for a range of technologies, such as cloud computing, the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, autonomous vehicles and robotics, that experts believe represent a new ‘industrial revolution’. 

The report argues that the figures – although only projections – give a sense of the scale of the talent pool that will need to be re-skilled to allow the construction sector to move to Industry 4.0 and embrace productivity-improving technologies. 

Mace warns that without a major effort to reskill the current workforce and attract a new generation of more tech savvy workers, the construction industry and the UK will lose out on the potential productivity benefits of the next industrial revolution. 

The construction sector has long suffered from a productivity gap, where it has failed to match the productivity gains seen in other UK industries. If it was able to properly move to Industry 4.0 and capture just half of the gains made elsewhere in the wider economy it could deliver an extra £25bn a year to the UK by 2040. 

Improving productivity in the construction sector would also have a knock-on effect on UK housebuilding and infrastructure delivery, helping to alleviate the housing shortage and ensure that major infrastructure projects are more likely to be delivered on-time and within budget. 

Mace’s report proposes three key recommendations that will help to ensure that the necessary number of workers can be re-trained. These are:

1. Accelerate the use of new technology in training

By mandating that the latest 3D printing technologies and augmented and virtual reality tools are introduced into industry training programmes and into ‘construction clubs’ in schools, the sector can better meet its future skills challenges will also ensuring that courses are attractive to potential students and recruits. 

2. Inform lifelong learning decisions

At the moment data is sparse on what skills we will need in the future. By commissioning large-scale sector-wide research and working with Government bodies like the ONS and CITB, the construction industry will be able to ensure that its skills profile is changing to meet actual need.  

3. Revolutionise our traditional education programmes

Current apprenticeship and training reforms will not go far enough to prepare the workforce for Industry 4.0. We need to upend the curriculum on offer now to reflect the modern methods of construction and off-site assembly that will be needed in the future. 

Mace has placed innovation, research and investment in skills development at the centre of its business strategy. In 2016, the company invested £42m in research and development alone. This has included the development of industry-leading construction techniques, such as the ‘jump factories’ being used by Mace on the construction of its East Village project in Stratford, London.  

Mark Reynolds, Mace’s Chief Executive, and skills lead on the Construction Leadership Council, said: 

“Everyone now acknowledges the current skills shortages need to be addressed. Our latest report high-lights the opportunities the digital revolution can offer, how we can dramatically close the future skills gap and how we can meet the £25bn ‘productivity challenge’. 

“The recommendations we have laid out will go some way towards addressing these issues. The industry, our training bodies and government need to work together to take full advantage of everything that Industry 4.0 can offer.”

Read Mace's latest Insight report into Industry 4.0.