How Tools And Technology Are Changing The Way Tradespeople Do Their Jobs

How advances in technology are transforming today's skilled tradesman

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In the current digital era, it’s easy to forget that this country was built by the hands of skilled tradespeople. It’s so easy, in fact, that the education system has been focused solely on preparing high school students for college for the last few decades, neglecting other career possibilities.

The focus on white-collar jobs has fueled a stigma on vocational training and created a gap in the skilled trades so large that there are now more than 250,000 job openings in the building trades industry alone, according to U.S. Department of Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta.

Changing the Nature of the Skilled Trades

But the same technology that has initially led to a decrease in vocational school enrollment is now taking the skilled trades to the next level and becoming as common as traditional construction equipment on trade sites across the country. Modern technology is making tradespeople more productive, more competitive, and more valuable than ever before.

“It is clear that digital skills will have a big impact on worker and workplace productivity,” said Sarah Watts-Rynard, Executive Director of the Canadian Apprenticeship Forum.  “The introduction of increasingly high-tech equipment and machinery requires skilled tradespeople to have competencies well beyond hands-on, mechanical skills.”

Below are three concrete examples of how modern technology is changing the nature of the skilled trades and creating a demand for tech-savvy skilled trade workers who are at least as good with the smartphone as they are with the hammer.

Project Management Software

Managing even a moderately large construction project is not an easy task. There are always countless deadlines to meet, budgets to fit into, and goals to complete. That’s why modern construction companies rely on special construction management software to plan, organize, and manage everything from estimation to scheduling to budgets to communication to decision making.

Construction management software is often used in conjunction with the building information modeling process, whose purpose is to give architecture, engineering, and construction professionals the insight and tools they need to manage buildings and infrastructure more efficiently.

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles

The use of drones, also known as unmanned aerial vehicles, for commercial purposes has skyrocketed in recent years. In the construction industry, drones are rapidly replacing traditional land-surveillance methods because they provide superior endurance and intelligence on job sites. Drones can additionally help eliminate dangers and safety hazards and thus lead to a drastic increase in worksite safety.

“When trouble arises, something got covered up, or when conditions change, and we have to look at where something was, picture is worth a thousand words--and a thousand dollars,” said Ryan Moret, who works as the field manager for McCarthy Building Companies and always carries a drone next to his trusty work boots.

Mixed Reality

Mixed reality, the merging of real and virtual worlds to produce new environments and visualizations using augmented and virtual reality solutions, may be the future of entertainment, but it’s already deployed on a daily basis in manufacturing, agriculture, and other sectors.

For example, GE partnered with Upskill to implement the Skylight augmented reality platform with Google Glass, a brand of smart glasses developed by Google that removes distractions and helps workers focus on what's most important, in warehouses and manufacturing facilities globally. The result? A 34 percent increase in productivity and meaningful quality improvements while assembling wind turbines.

Apart from enabling workers to be more agile and effective in their jobs, mixed reality is also providing opportunities for hands-on experience with real-time feedback during welding, machining, and heavy-equipment training.


The skilled trades have embraced modern technology, creating a large demand for tech-savvy skilled trade workers who are capable and willing to upgrade their skills to stay at the cutting edge of their industries. Considering how large the gap in the skilled trades is, it’s safe to say that the demand for hard-working individuals who can keep up with the rapid pace of technological progress will only increase in the future.

4 months ago, in The Changing Trades by Jason Burns
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