Designing The Future to Meet the Needs of a Changing ICT Workforce

March 1, 2024 | Workplace

It’s no secret that nearly every business today relies on Information and Communication Technology (ICT) to be successful. The ICT workforce is typically responsible for the installation and maintenance of a company’s existing and emerging computer, telecommunications, software, internet, programming, and information systems technologies.

The continuing demand for essential ICT services, combined with growing demand for new technologies such as AI (Artificial Intelligence), AR (Augmented Reality), and RPA (Robotic Process Automation), has created an industry-wide shortage of qualified technicians. For property and business owners, upgrading workspaces with the latest technology is essential to remain competitive.

Today’s ICT Workforce

Like many other construction-related industries, the number of journeyman workers leaving the industry or retiring today exceeds the number of new apprentices entering the trade. For clarification, journeymen have completed the training and certification process, while apprentices are currently working through the program. In most cases, apprentices must work under the supervision of a journeyman while on the job site and attend a predetermined number of classroom sessions.

According to the MIT Technology Review, by 2030, more than 85 million ICT jobs might go unfilled, due to a lack of qualified workers. As a result, ICT companies could lose out on $8.5 trillion in annual revenue. As a result of the ICT worker shortage, infrastructure costs and timelines for traditional ICT services continue to increase, since every business relies on email, data, and other technologies to operate efficiently. Compounding the issue is the demand for pandemic-related changes such as wayfinding/navigation screens, touchless access, and facial recognition systems that require substantially more bandwidth.

Consequently, due to technological innovations, the importance of hands-on and technical training to address knowledge gaps in the ICT industry cannot be overstated. In this scenario, learned experience does not have the chance to be passed on to the next generation of workers, and is effectively lost, creating knowledge gaps.

Construction in the 21st Century

With the emergence of these new technologies, construction processes must address today’s sustainability mandates and the flexibility to incorporate future needs. Here are three strategies for property owners and facilities teams to consider.

Modularity ensures that the product/building can be easily removed, reconfigured, and reinstalled, to meet changing needs. This practice prolongs the lifecycle while reducing environmental impact and conserving energy. 

Prefabrication or off-site construction techniques can be applied to system components or an entire building. Since most of the work occurs in a factory (controlled climate), weather delays are significantly reduced, shortening timelines and reducing construction costs.

Innovative products can help to minimize knowledge gap impacts via design velocity. Although the term is typically associated with software developers, design velocity is the time savings created by reducing or removing complex assemblies across the design and manufacturing phases to reduce final costs and timelines.

Reducing Risk for a Junior ICT Workforce

Worker safety and quality control are critical benchmarks across all construction-related industries. However, as the ratio of journeymen to apprentices continues to decline, productivity levels could decrease, resulting in longer project timelines and higher construction costs for most ICT projects. Along with higher costs, a junior workforce could potentially result in more workplace injuries or claims, impacting costs and timelines more severely. Over the next few years, this imbalance will slowly disappear as more apprentices complete their training and obtain their journeyman certification.

Until that happens, property owners, architects, and facilities teams should consider other options to keep project costs and timelines in check, including:

  • Provide additional training to familiarize workers with new technologies, including installation, maintenance, and system upgrades.
  • Decreasing demand for traditional tech skills requiring measuring, cutting, and assembling by adopting modular and prefab construction processes and products into the project design and scope of work.
  • Removing complexity from the design and installation of cabling infrastructure via a sustainable modular solution.

Data and power delivery will remain critical for today’s existing ICT systems, especially with the addition of new emerging business technologies like AI, AR, and RPO fueling increased demands. 

One solution is raised access flooring systems that move the data cabling (and power) from the walls and ceilings to beneath the floor for quicker and simpler access. With no grounding requirement and modular assembly, the Gridd® Adaptive Cabling Distribution® can be installed without special tools or fasteners and with minimal technical training.

Service teams remove the finish floor (typically carpet squares) to perform virtually any maintenance, upgrade, and reconfiguration projects quickly and efficiently. Most tasks can be completed within days instead of weeks without the dust, noise, and inconvenience of traditional construction processes and products.

A Sustainable Approach to New Workforce and The Advancing Built Environment 

The best systems utilize steel for increased strength and durability, with a lower flame spread rating than plastic options, making them ideal for publicly accessible area safety requirements. Modular steel construction allows the entire system to be reconfigured or uninstalled, moved to another physical location, and reinstalled, meeting the sustainability requirements of a circular economy.

The Gridd Power® Systems replaces outdated power cabling methods by providing a modular power system that fits seamlessly within the Gridd Access Floor channels.

The Gridd® Mobile App utilizes Augmented Reality (AR) to locate data, voice, and power cabling using any smartphone or tablet, making system changes quicker and easier.

While no one can accurately predict the next must-have business technology, it will rely on cabling to transmit and manage the required data across networks and among users. Moving forward, commercial properties must have an adaptable and flexible cabling infrastructure to remain competitive and address the current ICT worker shortage.

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