TL;DR – Construction workers of the future will be very different.
Some parents, when trying to spur their kids to study harder, will sometimes say: “If you don’t study hard enough, you will end up like that construction worker”. Indeed, work in the construction sector isn’t glamorous. Up until now, productivity growth in Singapore is lower than other sectors. As such, a lot of work in that sector is hard manual labour.
No wonder parents use that statement to scare their kids.
However, that is set to change.
Construction sector set to transform
The newly launched Construction Industry Transformation Map (ITM) paves the way or the creation of more attractive and highly skilled construction jobs. Instead of manual work, jobs in the construction sector will be in digital design and use cutting edge technology. They will also prioritise innovation and productivity.
The Construction ITM has three key components.
First, the Government will drive the adoption of Integrated Digital Delivery (IDD). With IDD, information about the construction project is first created through Building Information Modelling (BIM), which is a 3D model of a building with embedded information. This information is then shared amongst various parties working on the project – from developers, consultants, builders, tradesmen to facility managers – through the use of cloud and digital technology.
Second, the ITM aims to encourage the sector to adopt Design for Manufacturing and Assembly (DfMA) technologies. DfMA technologies move work that is traditionally done on site into a controlled factory environment, which allows for greater automation and the creation of new. The onsite installation process then becomes more efficient.
The third and last component builds on the first two. With those transformation, jobs will be redesigned and improved. New roles like production engineers and supervisors overseeing manufacturing of prefabricated concrete walls have been introduced to the sector.
Also, these new jobs will be in a more conducive indoor work environment as compared to conventional construction work. Even work in the traditional worksite will be improved. Through the ITM, there will be fewer workers in the worksite, but they will be more highly skilled, operating smarter machines and tools.
If the Construction ITM goes according to plan, some 80,000 Singaporeans will be trained to work in the sector using new construction technology and green building capabilities by 2025.
This is an increase from the 32,600 Singaporeans currently working in these areas. That means more Singaporeans will have good quality jobs in the construction sector. It also means that we will rely less on foreign workers in construction.
But only if tripartite partners work closely together
But a lot of work has to be done before this ITM can be fully realised. As Mary Liew, President of NTUC, said in a recent Straits Times opinion piece:
“An Oxford University study estimated that 47 per cent of jobs will be lost in about 25 years across a gamut of sectors, from professional jobs to managerial positions. The march of technology will not stop. The question is: How can workers keep up?”
“There are no simple solutions. Tackling a challenge of this magnitude requires the tripartite partners – the Government, employers and unions – to work together.”
Labour movement to tackle challenge of disruption
Ms Liew highlighted the three-pronged approach that the Labour Movement is working on to support the ITMs.
First, the Labour Movement is distilling the ITM into workable steps and show the workers exactly how the ITMs will benefit workers and companies. One way the Labour Movement intends to achieve this is to create a database of job types within the various sectors. Based on these job types, the Labour Movement will create a specific road map looking at how each job will evolve, and what kind of training the worker needs to transit into another job or even industry.
Second, the Labour Movement will prepare workers for the eventuality that some will be displaced as the economy restructures. The Labour Movement has also put in place job fairs as well as training and mentoring programmes to help match workers to new opportunities. They have also introduced the Pivot programme to help professionals, managers, executives, and technicians take on new jobs and enter fresh industries.
Lastly, the Labour Movement is anticipating where the shifts will be. The Labour Movement has been studying where new investments and jobs will be over the next few years. Launched in January this year, the Future Jobs, Skills and Training (FJST) department of the NTUC is working with training providers and institutes of higher learning to ensure that training programmes are updated so that workers are equipped with the relevant skill sets.
Better jobs, better pay for Singaporeans
With the Labour Movement, government, and employers working closely together, there is a good chance that the Construction ITM, as well as other ITMs, would be realised. That would be bring about increase in productivity growth, which would translate into better jobs with better pay. And there’s a good chance jobs in the construction sector will be glamorous and sexy in the future.
And, with luck, my children will have the ability to take up those really cool jobs in the construction sector.
(Featured image via)