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The Tucson Metro Chamber created the Construction + Design Sector Partnership about a year ago to bring industry leaders together to discuss and solve workforce development issues and challenges. Each of the leaders represent a different component of the industry, but there is one thing that unites us—the need for talented and skilled labor. With that said, we wanted to share a quick glimpse into how the pandemic has affected the construction and design industry.

As the pandemic envelopes the country, the construction industry is adapting quickly with resiliency and flexibility. Because of the nature of the work we often do outside in the elements, we are in a unique position to continue our work while taking proper precautions. Working in construction is noble, pays well and provides critical future infrastructure. Seen through the pandemic lens, it also allows some to work in the fresh air while learning to exhibit their trade skills. Face-to-face meetings are mostly unnecessary with technology evolving to allow for productive and timely interaction between teams. 

While the construction industry naturally has advantages compared to some other sectors during a pandemic, the entire industry has had to adapt to a new normal. In many ways, it has made companies that work in the construction sector, their employees and the market more adaptable and more resilient. Communication and the use of technology are areas that have improved, making the industry stronger. 

At the beginning of the pandemic, many of us moved our workstations into our home offices while the craftworkers and operators pushed through in the field, in most cases, with little slowdown. As an industry, we needed to develop lifesaving protocols, procure the necessary materials and educate ourselves on how to continue to work and stay safe during a pandemic. Only through careful, precise and frequent communication would this be possible. New ways to connect were found. Virtual meetings filled our calendars, which exposed a new set of skills that needed to be developed. More careful and clear communication was required to ensure that everyone on a construction site would receive and understand new protocols. We also began to check in on the wellbeing of each other virtually, by phone calls and/or in-person check-ins. Between an extensive calendar of virtual meetings, deliberate and frequent operational training and a lot of wellness check-ins, we have become better and more thoughtful communicators. The new means of communication and the lessons learned will benefit how business is done in the foreseeable future.

While the virtual meeting became the big winner from the pandemic, other means of technology have been pushed to the forefront and saw implementation at a much faster pace. There has been a new emphasis on collaboration platforms allowing teams to exchange information faster. File sharing and document markups completed over platforms such as Microsoft 360, HCSS, and Bluebeam became even more important, enhancing the features we now use within these programs. Apps like Facetime have allowed inspections to happen virtually, limiting the need for inspectors to travel to the site in person. Virtual Reality mockups have been allowed to replace the cost of a built-in-place mockup. Using apps, barcodes and websites to track COVID-19 prescreening has created a more efficient means to track and count daily manpower. The forced use of technology, most of which many companies already possessed, has promoted more extensive use of those tools, making our teams more productive.

We applaud the Chamber and others who are working to advance the construction trades throughout our region. Local efforts like Southern Arizona Construction Career Days, and statewide efforts, such as the Build Your Future campaign, are demonstrating that careers in construction are more than just men and women swinging a hammer. Between the advancements being made during the pandemic and efforts to showcase the positive aspects of our industry, we are positioned well when our community and country start to recover. 

 

Contributions from:

Ramon A. Gaanderse | KE&G Construction, Inc.

Michael Guymon | Tucson Metro Chamber

Alice Templeton | Barker Contracting, Inc.

Matt Thrower | DPR Construction