P.E. For Hire recently polled several leaders in the engineering field to gain more insight into the emerging trends affecting our industry and jobs. We did our research and pared the list to these top 3.
By Francisco Loureiro
Founder and President of PEforHire.com
American infrastructure is crumbling. According to the American Society of Civil Engineers, the overall condition of U.S. infrastructure—roads, bridges, dams and even drinking water—would rate a D+ and would require $2 trillion over the next ten years to just begin to correct. Fortunately, infrastructure could receive a huge slice of the budget pie in the latest U.S. spending bill.
The newest infrastructure investment plan seeks $1.5 trillion in transportation, water, and other infrastructure projects during the next decade and aims to streamline environmental reviews so projects can be built more quickly. Two hundred billion dollars would come from direct federal funding with the rest as matching funds from state and local governments and the private sector. On March 23, Congress passed the $1.3 trillion fiscal 2018 spending bill that features a $21.2 billion increase for federal infrastructure programs. As a result, engineering and construction firms that pursue federal infrastructure work will see the benefits.
2. Artificial Intelligence (AI)
“Man and machine always get a better answer than man alone or machine alone.”
– Ginni Rometty, CEO of IBM
Developments in the field of computer science are having a synergetic effect on all other engineering fields. The “internet of things (IoT)”, which is really just the interconnection of everyday devices with internet infrastructure, is allowing us to more effectively aggregate data, predict trends and create new innovations and efficiencies. In design and construction, the IoT is enabling project teams to access seamless cloud-based spaces for all aspects of a project life-cycle, providing cost-saving advantages and giving owners the ability to manage assets predictively.
Automation and robotics certainly make data collection easier for engineers, and greatly reduces time, money and human error. Certainly, all that information is great, but how it is analyzed and used is where we can find the best value. Human minds are only capable of dealing with three to four data points at a time, but AI algorithms are infinite. With machine learning, computers learn and predict from data using algorithms without being programmed.
Within our industry we’re already seeing the direct application of machine learning with Building Information Modeling’s (BIM’s) generative design. Data in BIM defines design elements and establishes the behavior and relationships between components. The software explores all possible solutions, quickly generating various design alternatives. In a sense, we are seeing a shift from machines that do, to machines that think—rather than just do.
3. Freelance Workforce
This one isn’t merely a trend. Free-agents, independent contractors, freelancers, moonlighters—whatever you want to call them—are capitalizing on a work choice that is here to stay. The importance of work-life balance is growing with each passing generation, with more than 40% of the US workforce projected to be independent contractors by 2020. There are several key factors contributing to this increase—demographics, economic conditions and new technology, to name a few. What remains clear is that workers are increasingly valuing freedom and flexibility.
Interconnectivity via the internet removes the need for physical location ties to employers, and allows people to access their work whenever and wherever they want. Additionally, with mergers and acquisitions around every corner in the AEC industry, traditional attachments to the workplace are diminishing. As such, people are taking advantage of online communities to find work.
Employers looking to source free agents should consider the growth of online talent platforms which are predicted to grow to a $50 billion industry by 2020. By tapping into P.E. for Hire and building a free agent culture, you’ll not only be able to retain employees, but also flex your workforce and attract key talent when and where it’s needed.