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Future Skills: Phil Horsley - Construction

How has your industry changed over the past 10 years due to technical and digital advancements?

One change is the speed at which we communicate and, therefore, the speed information is shared. Compare a smart phone and the ease of e-mailing drawings compared to post/fax and 10 year old mobile phones.

Conceptual schemes can be explored in more detail. Buildings are often modelled in three dimensions and the various elements considered under a system known as BIM (Building Information Modelling). These advancements have led to clashes being resolved at design stage as opposed to less efficiently on-site at a later stage.

Enhancements in design software also allow for more options to be studied and innovative solutions to be considered. Inputs for design are also far more sophisticated with advances in the surveying and modelling of ground conditions for foundations and other geotechnical schemes.

Tools and equipment are constantly evolving and improving both in capability and, more importantly, safety.

What do you predict will be the main change in your industry over the next 10 years and why?

Some of the physical work we are doing now will be viewed as barbaric by future generations of engineers. We expect major changes in conditions for operatives i.e. that they are safer and healthier. Geomarine strives to be at the forefront of innovation in these areas.

Remotely operated machines will replace physical labour where feasible. Wearable robotics/robotic augmentation may start to be adopted.

We currently write method statements and complete detailed programming to try to avoid clashes and hazards prior to starting on site. With enhancements in Virtual Reality (VR) linking to Computer Aided Design (CAD), the modelling described above could extend to modelling the physical work required as opposed to just the permanent elements of the project, i.e. entire projects may be built virtually with individual operative and machine movements modelled prior to starting on site.

With VR, AI and technical improvements in hardware, imagination limits seeing what may be standard in 10 years as opposed to what may be feasible.

What three main employability skills will be required for a successful future career in your industry?

Civil Engineering is a fascinating and rewarding sector to join. Many routes do not require academic qualifications, for example operating large drill rigs, working underwater as a commercial diver or up on ropes stabilising a rock face. You will be involved in projects that shape the world and make modern living feasible.

What matters to us:

1. Hard work and team work
2. Technical competence in an area you are genuinely interested in
3. The ability to think clearly under pressure.

Some of the above we teach and/or nurture on the job. Employability skills to show at interview would be a different list. If you can demonstrate that you are able to take personal responsibility for tasks under your control, you are almost guaranteed an opportunity. Having some knowledge of the sector due to genuine interest as per item two would also be well received, technical competence can/should follow.

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