AEC and Me – How Technology Is Breaking Down Barriers for the Cornish Construction Sector

Date Posted: Oct 9th 2019

Dr Martin Geach – Principal Digital Engineering Leader at Atkins – shares his views on how technology is changing the face of construction and breaking down barriers to inclusion.

First up AEC stands for ‘Architecture, Engineering and Construction’ – truth is I had no idea what it stood for until 2 weeks ago- we never stop learning. The sector represents a major area of employment in the UK and globally but in this post I want to focus on the importance in Cornwall.

‘3 million people work in Construction in the UK and 230,000 of them call the South West their home. Research shows that the sector will grow by 3% every year for the next 5 years and by 2021 another 20,000 people will need to be employed in the South West alone’

If you grew up in Cornwall you know things are pretty amazing- we have the beaches, the food, the beer and cider (yum) and a load of passionate people who are immensely proud to call Kernow home. The one thing we don’t have is a lot of opportunity when it comes to the types and numbers of jobs you see in the South East.

We all know this, but a change is coming.

You only have to jump onto LinkedIn, attend any number jobs fairs or talk to people (best idea) to discover how Cornwall is evolving. We are buoyant with tech start-ups and fantastic initiatives to support our people- check out LaunchPad. We produce some of the world’s best food and drink and we are experts in creating brand identity such as Finisterre.

‘There are more than 680 tech companies in Cornwall supporting more than 1,380 highly paid jobs and all are growing and recruiting at an extraordinary rate.’

Is the construction sector a catalyst for change in Cornwall?

In our technology enabled world change happens at a fantastic rate. The outcomes of change lead to societal benefits that were once unfathomable- having a phone in your pocket is a good one. So what is technology doing in the construction sector to help bring good things to Cornwall?

Breaking the barriers to inclusion is a biggy – technology has changed the face of construction to enable a huge number of jobs across the county.

‘In today’s construction industry, there are over 200 different job roles available and the ways in which you can enter the sector are extremely diverse’

I work for a leading engineering consultancy that serves Clients globally. My job is focused on helping people understand the opportunity that technology offers, my job did not exist 3 years ago. Our team grows constantly as we see more demand and this is happening across the sector- just see how many new Chief Digital Officer roles have been created. These new roles are not bound by geography and offer a great opportunity to Cornwall where our quality of life is world-class.

The wealth of new tech-enabled jobs not only helps people in their early careers, but also offers a wealth of opportunity to those who want a change. Things like LinkedIn Learning and YouTube offer a range of training materials that were just not available 5+ years ago. If we mix this with new T-Levels aligned to the construction sector, Cornwall is set to succeed. Some of best talent I work with have come from an apprenticeship background. The guys and gals have the ability to leverage their applied knowledge with the new tech capability to create new outcomes- this is gold!

Thinking about the unknownbreak-through technology will continue to change the way the construction sector works. The use of robotics in both physical work (I watched a robot demolish a wall in London last week) and in the planning of projects is upon us now and will bring a need for new skills and people in the sector as an example. In Cornwall we also have a great opportunity to raise interest around connecting our infrastructure to solve issues of poor physical connectivity (we have a lot of hills between our towns). For example, linking sensor-tech into our new schools, hospitals and social housing to allow for more responsive services. But this will only be possible through the knowledge and capability of the Architecture, Engineering and Construction sector as a whole.


All the best – Mart