Jobs open up in the UK construction sector following multi-million-pound investment

Clay Technology magazine
21 Feb 2019

A multi-million-pound investment in the UK construction sector is setting out to increase access to jobs. Idha Valeur looks into the plans.

A £72m investment from the UK government’s Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund has been used to establish a Core Innovation Hub. The programme aims to transform the construction industry to make it more efficient and offer high-value jobs to attract new workers.

The hub partnership has been awarded to the Manufacturing Technology Centre, Building Research Establishment, and the University of Cambridge’s Centre for Digital Built Britain. This collective will set up and run the initiative.

As the construction sector is highly conservative, it would benefit from exploiting digital technologies and offsite manufacturing. The hub’s objective is to aid this progress, facilitating ways of advancing the industry.

UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Challenge Director Sam Stacey told Clay Technology, ‘The hub will bring to the construction of buildings and infrastructure technologies [approaches] used successfully in other industries. Digital techniques will be used to design buildings based on platforms and components, in the same way cars are built now.’

Used alongside traditional methods, these modern techniques would include digital design, robotics, drones, and augmented and virtual reality – tools that appeal to the younger generation, sparking their interest construction careers, and widening the range of skilled work available to new pools of talent.

‘Precision manufacturing processes will be developed to realise these designs,’ Stacey said. ‘This will enable the delivery of better performing schools, hospitals, homes and economic infrastructure. This will benefit businesses, public services and people. It will also drive reductions in waste and energy consumption.’

The UK construction industry is facing a once-in-a-generation opportunity for transformation, according to Stacey, referring to the need to make this change now. At the moment, he added, it cannot deliver the infrastructure and homes the UK needs. ‘The industry is very labour-intensive, processes dependent on each stage being completed before the next starts, high levels of material waste, variable quality, and gaps between designed and actual asset performance,’ he said.

Going further, the construction industry intends to create safer workspaces by implementing standard building component sizes, techniques and processes. Standardising is hoped to not only make work safer but also more efficient.

Casting a wider net

Construction is one of the largest sectors in the UK, hiring 9% of the total labour pool – 3.1 million people – but there is still the potential to hire more people by appealing to a broader demographic.

And although the changes discussed may seem straightforward and easy to implement, they are dependent on casting a wider net to attract both younger generations and people who wouldn’t normally sign up for a career in construction. By embracing modern technologies that provide a greater diversity of roles and skillsets, the industry will be better placed to tackle misconceptions of what is a typical construction job, and who is a typical construction worker.

The investment is part of the Transforming Construction Challenge, where UKRI is allotting £170m to kick-start the transformation, as part of the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund.