Tracy-Lee Behr is event director: built environment at dmg events – organiser of the African Construction and Totally Concrete Expo. She believes mentorship and updated training programmes will be key in overcoming some of the challenges faced by South Africa’s youth, allowing for guidance and on-site experience.

We chat to Behr to find out more about how the expo provides for youth involvement and upliftment, how SA’s youth can prepare for the future of construction, and how the sector is innovating in the face of the Covid-19 crisis.

BizcommunityWhat opportunities do the African Construction and Totally Concrete Expo provide for youth involvement and upliftment?

Tracy-Lee Behr: We place a large focus on youth development and creating positive opportunities for South Africa students at the African Construction and Totally Concrete Expo.

Our recent initiative – the Student Challenge – allows students that are studying for a career in the built sector to work towards solving an industry challenge and have the chance to learn and network with our key exhibitors and stakeholders. These students, of course, can attend tailored workshops to ensure knowledge transfer and skills development.

BizcommunityWhat does the future of construction look like – how can SA’s youth prepare for that future?

Behr: It’s no secret that the built industry is changing and we look forward to simplified systems and the tools to ensure a safer way to work – technology therefore will lead the way. Our event not only provides the space for attendees to learn about such innovation and smart practices – from the implementation of robotics and using drones to inspect project sites – but considers the best way forward through our dedicated content including our Stakeholder Engagement Forum and discussion platforms. This includes the increasing need for STEM skills in the industry. We are also excited to witness how BIM modelling will encourage central working models.

Secondly, there is a massive opportunity for women in construction and with that we embrace transformation and how we can play a role in recognising and celebrating such women through our industry awards.

Finally, there is no doubt that the industry has changed and we understand that recovery will take time. The impact of Covid-19 will not only pose many challenges, but will also bring about innovation and a new normal – perhaps one that is safer and more efficient. Overall, we will look to cleaner, safer sites where distancing will become the norm.

BizcommunityWhat are some of the most significant challenges for South Africa’s youth? How do you believe the construction industry can help overcome them?

Behr: As mentioned, we know that although connectivity and moving towards a 4IR world is exciting, it also poses as a big challenge and not everyone has access to digital platforms and or information in Africa. Therefore, mentorships and updated training programmes will play a key role in overcoming such challenges, as it allows for guidance and on-the-job experience. It also means exposure to the necessary platforms.

BizcommunityWhat are some noteworthy ways in which the sector is innovating in the face of the Covid-19 crisis in SA?

Behr: On the top of the list has to be tighter health and safety regulations – this brings about new methods most of which have been thought of in the past few months. With that said, automation will be increasingly more visible.

BizcommunityWhat advice do you have for youth looking to pursue a career in construction over the next decade?

Behr: The construction sector is the world’s oldest industry and there continues to be so many opportunities. We encourage them to visit events like the African Construction and Totally Concrete Expo and take advantage of the free training and opportunities to network, and exposure to the latest products. Construction is very technical and requires constant learning and development.

BizcommunityWhat to you is the significance of Youth Month in 2020?

Behr: This is a Youth Month like no other! Our youth is being affected, of course, by the pandemic with no schooling. Though it has taught us to adapt and remain resilient, the industry will never be the same again which is both daunting and exciting!