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Automation and Robotics: Rethinking Engineering and Construction Jobs


by Sabine Hoover, Jay Snyder and Alyssa Menard

Approximately 50% of the current positions in the construction sector could be automated,1 and that’s a good thing. With disruptive changes to business models expected to have a profound impact on the employment landscape over the coming years, the push toward using more automation and assistive technologies (e.g., exoskeletons) could quite possibly be the one light at the end of every engineering and construction (E&C) rm’s tunnel right now.

More than ready to start working smarter, better and faster, E&C companies aren’t alone. Across many business segments—from warehousing to retail to distribution—we’re seeing an uptick in the amount of automation, robotics, arti cial intelligence, machine learning and other advanced tech- nologies being used to augment existing workforces. And while the notion of a machine completely replacing human labor might seem far-fetched for many, there is already a strong movement toward humans and machines working together in the built environment.

“Developments in genetics, arti cial intelligence, robotics, nanotechnology, 3-D printing and bio- technology, to name just a few, are all building on and amplifying one another. This will lay the foundation for a revolution more comprehensive and all-encompassing than anything we have ever seen. Smart systems—homes, factories, farms, grids or cities—will help tackle problems ranging from supply chain management to climate change,” the World Economic Forum (WEF) points out in “The Future of Jobs.” “In many industries and countries, the most in-demand occupations or spe- cialties did not exist 10 or even ve years ago, and the pace of change is set to accelerate.”2

These trends are expected to have a signi cant impact on employment across all industries, ranging from new job creation to job displacement and from increased labor productivity to widening skills gaps. The WEF further points out that, “As entire industries adjust, most occupations are undergo- ing a fundamental transformation. While some jobs are threatened by redundancy and others grow rapidly, existing jobs are also going through a change in the skill sets required to do them.”3

According to the WEF, 65% of students who are entering primary school today will wind up work- ing in job types that don’t even exist in today’s business world. In light of this rapidly changing em- ployment landscape—which includes the E&C industry—being able to anticipate and prepare for future skills requirements, new careers and these employment changes is more important than ever for companies that want to maintain their competitive edge.

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