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chairman of the Governor’s Traffic
Safety Committee as well as deputy
chief of staff and special counsel to the
New York State Attorney General.
He has twice served on the board of
directors of the American Association of
Motor Vehicle Administrators. He has
also served as Deputy United States
Chief of Protocol at the Department of
State, Deputy Director of Scheduling
and Advance for the First Lady, and as
a special assistant at the Department of
Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
Martinez holds a law degree from St.
John’s University School of Law in New
York and a bachelor’s degree from Long
Island University’s C. W. Post College,
where he later served on the adjunct
faculty in Public Administration
Robots will impact
There’s been a lot of media coverage
over the past couple of years about how
workers in many industries, construction
included, will soon be replaced by robots
and artificial intelligence (AI). A recent
study by the Midwest Economic Policy
Institute (MEPI) estimates that by
2057 robots could replace or displace
2. 7 million jobs in construction.
It’s an alarming number, but one that
should be taken in the context of how
it was determined, experts emphasize.
The MEPI study used employment
numbers from the Bureau of Labor
Statistics for a handful of construction
trades and then applied a growth rate of
6. 5 percent each decade to get projected
employment numbers by 2057. They
then applied automation potential
estimates derived from a report by
McKinsey and Co. to determine how
jobs in each trade would be displaced or
replaced in the next 40 years.
Some occupations in construction
have a higher potential for automation,
including operating engineers,
which has an 88-percent potential for
automation. One of the reasons for this
is that autonomous heavy equipment
already exists, using similar technology
for self-driving cars, and is currently in
use to perform excavation, grading and
site work. Equipment manufacturers
like Komatsu, CAT, Volvo CE and others
are investing heavily in research and
development to perfect the technology
and bring it to market.
Other occupations have a smaller
potential for automation, like roofers
( 31 percent), construction laborers
(35 percent) and sheet metal workers
(39 percent). Part of the reason is that
it’s not technically feasible to replicate
certain tasks using robots and that
much of the physical work done in
construction is done in unpredictable
and ever-changing environments.
McKinsey estimates that the
automation potential for unpredictable
physical work in construction is 38
percent compared to predictable physical
work, which has a 70 percent automation
potential for construction and extraction
workers. They also predict that only
5 percent of all occupations across
all industries have the potential to be
completely replaced by robots.
So, are robots coming to steal
construction jobs? For starters, there’s
already a labor shortage created by the
Great Recession that the construction
industry still hasn’t recovered from
despite the fact that construction
spending is at an all-time high. Older
workers are aging out and retiring
and the younger generation isn’t
exactly flocking in droves to careers
in construction to make up current
shortfalls in labor demand.
The construction industry, as a whole,
is also notoriously slow at adopting
new technology, which may impede the
advancement of robots making their
way to the construction site. The other
thing to keep in mind is that there’s
currently a dearth of commercially
available construction robots. This
robot revolution is still in its infancy
so it’s going to take some time before
robots make a significant impact on the
construction industry, analysts say.
Current robots are good at doing
simple, repetitive tasks, which is why the
industry is already seeing brick laying
robots and rebar tying robots. Once set
up, these robots can work continuously
to complete tasks faster than human
workers without needing to take breaks
or go home for a good night’s sleep.
Robots don’t get tired from lifting bricks,
applying mortar and setting them in place
or constantly bending over to tie rebar.
In both these examples, humans
are still needed to perform some of the
work. Both still require workers to set
up the robots and get them started.
The more likely scenario is that a
small number of jobs and occupations
may be completely eliminated or
replaced by robot workers. A majority of
jobs will remain with humans working
in conjunction with robots performing
more of the repetitive and laborious
tasks, allowing workers to be more
productive and efficient by focusing on
the highly-skilled tasks of their job.