What does this mean for civil engineers?
Changes in digital technology will undoubtedly modify the way of working for civil engineers. Improvements in the capability of digital technology have the potential to provide benefits to the construction industry including automated plant and equipment, reducing the people-plant interface which ultimately will improve health and safety on a construction site, drones for site surveys, and precast manufacturing. In response to these technologies, the skills and requirements of civil engineering professions will change. For example, early career professionals may need to adapt to working alongside machines that complete what would have been a ‘traditional’ graduate engineering role and be prepared to manage new technologies in construction. Mid-career and late career professionals will also need to be adaptable and upskill as necessary to work with the changes in the use of technology. Covid-19 has made digital transformation even more important. Travel times for face to-face meetings and the need for large office spaces have been reduced by meetings on digital platforms. With sustainability at the heart of many of our discussions, using technology to reduce our carbon footprint can only be a positive. Technology has many positive impacts for the construction industry and will continue to transform our ways of working over the coming years, however I think we’re decades away from being in a position close to having a machine that can complete even half the work that an engineer can. Embracing technology in our ways of working will be key, whilst still recognizing that human interaction will remain a critical part of our industry.