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How can Proptech bridge the skilled labour shortage gap?



To deliver on its ambitious future development plans, Australia will need a robust skilled workforce. Recent projections by Infrastructure Australia however, show the skilled workforce will be 48% short of demand by 2023. That's a deficit of 93,000 people. 


Further affected will be the residential housing market. Property Council WA’s recent report: Delivering Housing Supply and Affordability for Western Australians, warns of an impending housing crisis due to ongoing skills shortages. 


“Swift action is required to avert a future housing and affordability crisis,” says Property Council WA Executive Director, Sandra Brewer. 


Much of the current media coverage is centered around manual labour shortages. Yet, specialist knowledge skillsets (project managers, tech specialists, engineers, scientists and architects) also face critical shortages. 


What are the main contributors to these shortages? And, importantly, what can we, as industry professionals, do to bridge this gap? 


These are some of the questions we’ll be answering in our first Knowledge Series of 2022: How Can PropTech Bridge the Skilled Labour Shortage Gap? 


Let’s look at some of the primary statistics, how this translates to real-world issues, and our proposed solutions for the greatest impact. 


1. Bridging Projected Supply and Demand Gaps

Statistic: In direct contrast to a projected boom in demand, labour shortages will be three times greater than in 2017-2018. This shortage is around 48% higher than projected supply, peaking at a projected shortfall of 93,000 workers in early 2023.


Issue: Negative flow-on effects of skilled labour shortages include: 

  • Increased cost of housing with decreased supply 
  • Delays in project delivery
  • Increased workload for existing skilled workers 
  • Escalated labour costs 
  • Pressure on existing public infrastructure (hospitals, schools) to accommodate a growing population, among others. 


Solution: As the property industry begins to ramp back up this year, typical consultants will be under resourced. Utilising PropTech will ease the pressure off these difficult constraints. Great projects need innovative solutions with hyper streamlined workflows at its foundation. 


Where can PropTech assist in this process: 

  • Early site/cost analysis: ArchistarGiraffe
  • Early engineering space/cost analysis: Neuron 
  • Early environmental and sustainability analysis: cove.tool
  • Early carbon footprint analysis: Footprint company
  • Document management solutions: ProcoreAconex 
  • QA checklists for DA submissions: Neuron ensures all major items are captured, addressed, and added to a risk management system 


Impact: Restructuring the design workflow frees up time and capital for innovative decisions. More structure does not mean boring designs. Great buildings require smart planning and a structured, robust delivery process. 


Here, we’re shifting the mindset. We're moving away from ‘let’s submit now and sort out the details later’, to ‘let’s analyse options before we commit to a design.’ This leads to better outcomes for developers and future residents. 


2. Capturing Knowledge Pre-Retirement

Statistic: Dubbed the ‘ageing crisis’, up to 40% of the skilled workforce will be eligible for retirement in the next 15 years.


Issue: Without early intervention, valuable industry skills and specialist knowledge will be lost. We must capture and pass on this knowledge before we lose 40% of the skilled workforce. Otherwise, we risk our ability to deliver quality residential buildings and public infrastructure. 


Solution: While migration is one answer to skilled labour shortages, border closures and education gaps mean we cannot rely on this alone. PropTech solutions enable us to capture and deploy important knowledge before an entire generation of the skilled workforce retires. In fact, existing PropTech can optimise building outcomes, today. 


Impact: Collated knowledge shared at scale will have a major collective benefit. PropTech de-risks developments by reducing human error that comes with booming development pipelines. This will help mitigate the fallout from an impending ‘ageing crisis’. PropTech reduces risk by identifying best-case scenarios before the design is locked in and built. The result is better buildings, at scale, with reduced risk and greater sustainability and innovation outcomes. 


3. Reducing Regional Vulnerability

Statistic: Approximately four out of five of public infrastructure workers, or 78% of the construction workforce, is currently located in major cities across New South Wales, Victoria or Queensland. Two thirds of detailed design work specialists (architects, engineers, and tech specialists) are further concentrated in New South Wales and Victoria. 


Issue: Regional areas are the most vulnerable to shortages in skilled labour. This is especially true for detailed design work requiring specialist knowledge and expertise. The impacts of this are already being felt in regional areas such as WA, with over a third of Perth’s approved pipeline of apartment developments currently on hold due to skills shortages. A further $2.2 billion of apartment projects awaiting development approval are on hold for the same reason. 


Solution: While solutions for labour shortages are not solved in isolation, PropTech will play a major role in delivering high-quality projects to remote and regional areas, without requiring the typical extent of labour and effort. PropTech enables remote learning, streamlining of workflow, feasibility analysis, engineering planning, design optimisation and more. This capability reduces workload burdens on remote consultants already working at capacity. 


Impact: Construction itself cannot be conducted remotely. However, many planning, design and project management skillsets are not bound by location and can be utilised, and even optimised, with existing PropTech. Remote training, QA and feasibility analyses, detailed design optimisation, and engineering space planning can all assist in bridging the skills shortage gap, particularly for vulnerable and remote areas. 


In summary: 


Skilled labour shortages present many challenges for the construction industry. At Neuron, we know it presents many exciting opportunities, as well. PropTech solutions speed up development processes, reduce risk, optimise designs, increase value and provide positive outcomes at scale. Industry specialists utilising PropTech are noticing fantastic outcomes and a positive flow-on effect. For Neuron, the projected skilled labour shortage is our call to action to make a lasting impact on our communities. There’s no time like the present to utilise available technology for our collective benefit. The question is, what are you waiting for? 


“If you always do what you've always done, you'll always get what you've always got.” 

- Henry Ford 


Learn more about Neuron and its exciting offerings by getting in touch with Steve Cassells at steve@neuron.build 





References

Property Council WA (Report)

ABC - Skilled Labour Shortage (Article)

Infrastructure Australia (Report)



 
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