Gainesville programs provide construction training

The construction industry in the United States has experienced lagging and, in some cases, declining productive growth over the past few decades, unlike the manufacturing industry where productivity nearly doubled over the same period. . A labor shortage, supply chain issues and rising cost of resources are some of them.

Thus, it is inevitable that the industry will push more for technology and automation, which raises fears about the displacement of valuable jobs. According to a recent study by the Pew Research Center, 72% of Americans fear automation will take over jobs and 42% believe it will disrupt the construction industry.

Unmanned aerial vehicles or drones, 3D-printed housing, and autonomous heavy equipment — elements pulled straight from science fiction stories — are becoming more mainstream in the industry. The increased use of technology for front-end planning has shifted work from unskilled to skilled positions.

For example, a robotic total station can eliminate the work of three field workers, but these require a digital blueprint that is created in the office by a skilled position (usually those with an advanced degree).

The threat of widening economic inequality and job obsolescence is, indeed, on the rise. Economic inequality in the United States is linked to several factors, including technological change and the erosion of the value of the minimum wage.

One of the possible causes of economic inequality suggested by skill-driven technical change is that technology increases the demand for educated workers, allowing them to demand higher wages, leading to increased inequality. of income. Furthermore, skill-enhancing technical change implies that technological advances have increased the productivity of skilled labor relatively more than that of unskilled labor.

Furthermore, the increasing development of new technologies and the lack of skills will continue to widen this gap, as new technology will require more STEM education and skills to operate. Therein lies the problem: today’s workforce must adapt and create a symbiotic relationship with emerging technology.

Construction worker installing rebar using robot mounted lasers for precise installation.

The solution is to provide community education and training at all job levels. A worker-technology relationship will result in the adoption of emerging technology that will improve productivity while the worker continuously learns the skills needed to use that technology, thereby ensuring job security.

Fortunately, there is a need for construction workers at all levels, from day laborers to project managers. According to the Commercial Construction Index, a quarterly economic index of the construction industry published by the United States Chamber of Commerce, 89% of contractors report a moderate to high level of confidence in the market and 52% of entrepreneurs say they will employ more people.

However, a major barrier is the shortage of skilled workers: 88% of contractors still report moderate to high levels of seeking skilled workers, and 35% of contractors report turning down work due to skilled labor shortages.

There are opportunities for the local Gainesville community to find employment in the construction industry. For professional positions, such as project management and superintendents, programs such as ME Rinker, Sr. School of Construction Management at the University of Florida offer programs leading to an accredited degree required for some management positions. The doctoral school also offers the possibility of researching these new emerging technologies.

Students flying unmanned aerial vehicles at ME Rinker, Sr. School of Construction Management at the University of Florida.

However, a university degree is not necessary to get a job in the industry and may not be suitable for everyone. Vocational training is essential to the construction industry, as workers are the backbone of the industry.

Sante Fe College offers a variety of construction and technical programs, such as career and technical certificates and apprenticeships. The University of Florida Environmental Professions Training, Research, and Education (UF TREEO) offers non-credit continuing education courses, certificate programs, and safety training.

Regardless of position, education is essential for success in construction and other industries. Providing access to STEM education, especially to low-income and disadvantaged residents, is key to closing the economic gap. Programs like the Gainesville Empowerment Zone Family Learning Center, sponsored by Gainesville For All, are imperative to providing STEM access and family connection to vital community services to ensure a well-trained workforce is present.

Regardless of education level or economic status, the problem is clear: the construction industry urgently needs trained skilled workers. Now is a perfect opportunity for the community of Gainesville to improve its educational and economic well-being.

Aaron Costin is an assistant professor at UF’s ME Rinker, Sr. School of Construction Management.

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