Built spent five jampacked days in Las Vegas, March 14-18, 2023, for CONEXPO-CON/AGG (ConExpo), the largest construction trade show in North America. The event only comes around every three years, so exhibitors pull out all the stops to showcase their equipment, latest technologies and innovations. In addition to the exhibition, the event offered close to 200 educational sessions, spanning topics from sustainability to technology to talent.
When we say this is a big show, this isn’t an exaggeration. The Las Vegas Convention Center is 2.5 million square feet of exhibit space, and the conference spanned it all. It also included the large Festival Lot outside the Convention Center, where huge cranes and excavation equipment were on display.
While on-site, Built had a chance to attend several education sessions, and two themes emerged as areas of focus for the construction industry in the years ahead.
The talent recruiting game has changed
The construction industry is concerned about recruiting and retaining talent. With an aging worker population in construction, it’s important for companies to more aggressively consider younger generations, women and tech-savvy individuals to fill open roles.
One of the sessions we attended was “Bold Leadership for Women.” The room was packed, standing-room only, which was encouraging given the overall ratio of men to women at the conference.
The women leaders on the panel discussed topics including:
- The importance of female mentorship and safe spaces—advocating for other women and encouraging room for all at the table
- Learning how to avoid negative self-talk and overcoming imposter syndrome
- Charting your own path and not apologizing; understanding that “having it all” means different things to different people and may also mean something different at different points in a person’s life
- Having an open mind to assume that men in the workplace want to be allies; this isn’t always the case, but many times it is
- Leaning into networks of support—this can be online communities, social media or within your company to find other women with shared experiences
Another trend in hiring, especially for younger generations, is a strong sense of company culture. As the competition for employees grows, job seekers are looking for employers who align with their personal values—whether that be sustainability mindedness, balanced working schedules or community involvement. The companies that will win in the war for talent will be the ones that define their identity clearly and authentically.
Cybersecurity concerns mount in a connected world
Several sessions covered cybersecurity; the one we attended focused on a recent report from AT&T Business. Every year, the telecommunications company conducts the AT&T Cybersecurity Insights Report, which surveys more than 1,500 security practitioners globally.
Theresa Lanowitz, head of evangelism at AT&T Business – Cybersecurity, spoke about the report. The big theme for 2022: companies moving away from monolith, legacy computing systems into the cloud. This shift, referred to in the presentation as “the edge,” deals with a shift toward infrastructure applications and workloads closer to where data is generated or consumed—for example, internet-connected devices and sensors monitoring and reporting data on an assembly line in near-real time.
The AT&T report found that 75% of companies are moving to the edge, but most are still in a hybrid environment, with computing on premise and some in the cloud. As they move to the cloud, many are struggling to understand what security requirements and safeguards they can take with them from legacy environments.
“In 2022, the No. 1 perceived threat for those we surveyed was ransomware,” Lanowitz said. “But now, in 2023, as we gather data for the newest report, we are seeing that the No. 1 perceived threat has changed to distributed denial of service (DDOS). This is, for example, where bots are sent to a device, website or server to render it inactive or unreachable. This was barely on the radar in the 2022 report [was listed as No. 8 on the list in 2022] and now has risen to the No. 1 concern.” This rapidly changing landscape shows how connected devices will continue to play into the cybersecurity concerns of construction organizations. “We are seeing security more and more as a business enabler,” Lanowitz said. “Companies that prioritize security will have a competitive edge.”