Are you ready for change?
Increased access to digital technology has caused significant changes and disruption to some industries such as book publishing, newspapers and the effect of uber on taxi companies. These impacts have started a conversation about the future of work and employment, particularly in the face of rapidly developing robotic applications and how this will impact on industries and people.
As Australia's third largest employer, major disruptions in the construction industry would have wide ranging implications for the nation's economy.
Exploratory scenarios for Queensland's construction industry to 2036
Construction Skills Queensland (CSQ) approached our Strategic Insight team and asked us to work with them to examine the impact of technological and social changes on the construction workforce over the next two decades.
CSQ began The Farsight Project because they believe that the construction industry needed futures analysis to make better strategic decisions.
Our scientists used a scenario planning process, incorporating an analysis of trends impacting the industry, expert interviews and consultative workshops. Eighty leading experts across the state contributed to the study, reflecting on what the industry might look like in 2036 and how job profiles and skills requirements might change to align with that future.
The industry input and trends scan culminated in the development of four scenarios that capture key areas of uncertainty and impact for jobs and skills in the industry.
The future for construction
The development of the four scenarios involved the identification of two spectrums of uncertainty and impact on construction jobs and skills. One of these spectrums is the extent to which task automation advances over the coming decades. The other spectrum relates to the extent of the industry’s willingness to embrace new technology – its willingness to adopt a culture of innovation.
Once these two spectrums are crossed, they define the scenario space and lead to the development of plausible scenarios in each quadrant.
Scenario 1: The Digital Evolution
'Robot labour' technologies have not progresses as quickly as expected. Little has changed in the industry, but wide adoption of digital technology has boosted productivity in the face of fierce competition. Parts of the workforce are utilising exosuits to manage challenges of an ageing workforce and extreme weather.
Scenario 2: Smart Collaboration
Queensland is embracing advanced manufacturing and new tools, making the construction process safer, more productive and less labour intensive. While the promise of smart robots has not been fulfilled, the industry has built world-class innovation capacity, attracting international collaborators and investment.
Scenario 3: Globally Challenged
Queensland's workforce is under pressure due to advanced manufacturing and robotics internationally. Overseas entrants are introducing new construction technologies and methods, and local companies and operations are competing through outsourcing to sophisticated low cost producers in Asia.
Scenario 4: Rise of the Robots
Automation is mature and Queensland has emerged as a global construction hub shaping the transformation. The state is the go-to place for testing and refining exosuit, intelligent robot and advanced manufacturing and materials, attracting massive foreign investment and exciting high tech jobs.
The Farsight project was designed to help the industry understand what could happen in the future, and to identify what future(s) the industry wants and what steps could be taken to move toward desired futures.
The trends and scenarios highlight important implications for the industry and raise questions around what type of skills will be needed in the future and therefore what training and education will be required to ensure we have a workforce ready to take on new technologies.