Technological Change LMI cover

The impact of technological change is more likely to increase the headcount of the engineering construction industry (ECI) workforce than reduce it, according to new research published today.

A new report into the impact of technological change on the ECI, published by industry skills body the ECITB, surveyed more than 800 employers in this vital sector of the UK economy.

Twice as many employers said new and emerging technologies – such as automation and artificial intelligence – will see their workforce grow (20%) over the next three years compared to those who think it will shrink (9%), with the majority citing improved efficiency (81%) and precision (65%) and new business opportunities (55%) as likely benefits.

However, employers also face major challenges to harnessing new technologies and processes, including time (34%) and resource (30%) constraints and a lack of required skills among the existing workforce (19%).

Key findings

Industry employers on technological change in their business:

  • 81% of businesses expect new technology to improve efficiency.
  • 65% of businesses expect improved precision.
  • 55% expect new business opportunities compared with only 4% who expect reduced business opportunities.
  • 42% of employers already use digital technologies, such as Big Data, Augmented Reality or Virtual Reality.
  • 15% of industry employers use low carbon technologies.

On the impact on job roles:

  • 9% of surveyed employers believe that technology will reduce their headcount whereas 20% predict their workforce will grow as a result of technological change in the industry.
  • 62% expect technological change will see more demand for engineering-related technicians
  • 59% expect to see more demand for engineering and science professionals
  • 54% expect greater demand for skilled mechanical, electrical, instrumentation and electronic trades.

On challenges in adopting new technologies:

  • 34% said lack of time and 30% lack of resources were the biggest challenges in adopting new technologies.
  • 19% of employers said their workforce lacks the skills to adopt new technologies
  • 16% of companies believe training courses are not at the cutting edge of industry needs
  • 14% feel there is a lack of readily available training courses.
  • 24% of employees see no challenges in adopting new technologies
  • A significant minority (20%) claim new technology is not immediately relevant to their business.

The report is available to download in full here: 

ECITB: Industry 4.0
Chris Claydon - ECITB Chief Executive

Chris Claydon, Chief Executive of the ECITB, said: “Technology is a major driver of change across the engineering construction industry and will impact on all sectors – from oil and gas, to renewables to pharmaceuticals. With the industry set to grow by 33,000 jobs in the next decade, we must ensure the workforce is future proofed. This means making sure companies can recruit new talent with advanced digital skills and upskilling the current workforce in the use of new technologies, so that employers can maximise the opportunities Industry 4.0 presents.

“This report throws up some unexpected results, with more confidence around the impact of technology on job numbers than we might have expected and positive views of the impact on productivity and profitability of businesses.

“However, we know that, especially for smaller companies, recruitment challenges and skills shortages are a particular concern. We will continue to develop new training standards to support emerging technologies, such as our industrial drone operator training, and support training providers to equip learners with in-demand technological skills.”

The ECITB’s report on ‘The impact of technological change on the Engineering Construction Industry’ is part of a two part study being published by ECITB. The findings are based on fieldwork conducted by Pye Tait Consulting between July and October 2018, including a telephone survey of more than 800 employers. The first report, ‘The Engineering Construction Industry Labour Market Outlook’ study explored the challenges faced by industry, identifying a growing skill gaps where employers struggle to recruit candidates with the right skills and experience.