Technology adoption is set to reshape Australia’s construction workforce over the next fifteen years as automation wipes out hundreds of thousands of existing jobs but more than half a million new jobs are created, a new report says.
Releasing its latest report prepared in conjunction with Faethem AI, the Australian Computer Society (ACS) has analysed occupations which are most heavily exposed to automation along with the new roles which technology will enable.
All up, it found that the construction sector could add 289,000 to its headcount over the next fifteen years to go from 1.160 million workers employed in 2019 to 1.393 million in 2034.
On technology specifically, ACS found that the net direct impact may be negative as 290,000 existing positions are susceptible to being automated whilst only 107,000 new ‘tech’ related construction jobs are likely to be generated.
This will be more than offset, however, as 415,000 non-technical jobs may be generated over that period.
According to the report, construction related occupations which are most susceptible to automation include truck drivers, home improvement installers, painting trades workers, structural steel and welting trades workers and wall and floor tilers.
Meanwhile a number of occupations will see the capacity of what they can achieve enhanced through augmentation.
These include bricklayers and stonemasons, civil engineers, plasterers, electricians and air-conditioning and refrigeration mechanics.
Not surprisingly, exposure to automation is lower amongst the professional side of the industry compared with the trades.
Only three percent of existing roles in civil engineering and five percent of existing roles in construction management are in danger of being automated over the next fifteen years, the report says.
Meanwhile, technology take-up may result in the creation of 107,000 new construction related positions between now and 2034.
This includes 5,900 positions in software development – systems software, 5,900 positions in software development – application, 4,200 data engineering roles, 3,800 process improvement analyst roles and 3,700 data scientist positions.
Across the broader economy, ACS says Australia could add around 2.6 million new jobs between 2019 to 2034 as 5.3 million new roles are created whilst only 2.7 million positions are eliminated through automation.
Of those new jobs, 1.2 million are ‘tech’ related whilst 4.1 million are non-technical positions.
It warns, however, of a shortfall in labour supply as the size of the workforce is expected to grow by only 1.9 million whereas a net of 2.6 million new workers will be needed.
Moreover, ACS warns that up to 400,000 workers may become ‘structurally unemployed’ because of a lack of preparedness and agility to adapt to changing market conditions.
It said education and re-skilling are needed to prevent this.
Andrew Johnson, chief executive officer of ACS, says Australia faces challenges in preparing its workforce for technological disruption.
“Australian workers are feeling the effects of emerging technologies across industries,” Johnson said.
“As jobs are augmented by technology, tasks performed across the labour market are evolving at an unprecedented rate, driving demand for new skillsets.”
“Anecdotally, there seems to be much upside for our nation. That said, there are clear barriers that need to be addressed.”
In its report, ACS suggests that those in occupations which are vulnerable to automation should prepare to shift to roles which are less likely to become redundant.
In construction, it says painting trades workers could retrain as visual merchandisers, visual arts and craft professionals or solar photovoltaic installers.
Insulation and home improvement installers, meanwhile, could become bricklayers & stonemasons, terrazzo workers & finishers or upholsterers.
Structural steel & welding trades workers, finally, could become solar photovoltaic installers, visual arts & crafts professionals or maintenance superintendents.