As the COVID-19 pandemic began raging around the world, life gradually started slowing down. The construction sector was no exception. According to data, 68% of construction companies saw a decrease in their projects due to the pandemic. This resulted from the suspension or cancellation of their planned projects. Lukas Laukaitis, CEO of Conresta, believes that a business must be always prepared for unforeseen situations, and especially for economic crises. We discussed the construction market, the needed competencies, and the future perspectives of this industry with a graduate of Vilnius Gediminas Technical University (VILNIUS TECH).
You are working in an ever-changing sector: 10 years ago, the construction industry used certain materials, techniques and installation methods that are different from those used today. Could you tell us about some of the latest trends?
Change is an integral part of construction, as well as any other sector. Technology has become the key change, as from the idea to the implementation the project management has moved to a virtual space, and that’s now considered the norm. There is a huge market supply of programs that claim to facilitate the implementation of a project, so our most important job is selecting the right one. By choosing a program that really works, we can move towards significant changes, improvements, and updates. We are pleased to see that the market is finally switching to energy-efficient constructions with sustainable solutions. The construction deadlines are also becoming shorter and shorter, which means that faster construction with an emphasis on process optimisation and productivity is required. Time management has probably become the most important part of implementing an effective project, and it helpful to continuously adhere to some strict requirements. We are pleased to be one of the few companies that has kept pace with the technology, so the increasingly demanding approach to construction has not presented us with insurmountable challenges.
How has the global COVID-19 pandemic affected the construction sector? What do you think should be done to avoid any negative consequences?
A business should always prepare for unforeseen situations, especially economic crises. A year ago, no one could foresee the situation that we’re in today. It can be called a crisis. Like all previous crises, the pandemic has caused various businesses to slow down due to uncertainty about the future. Since the construction sector has experienced a decline in developer investments, competition among the market players has become much more intense than ever before. Everyone wants to add projects to their baskets and ensure their activities can survive. However, in order to protect a business from negative consequences, it is very important to prepare for such periods even when a company is thriving. This means having a so-called ‘financial cushion’. It is also important to work with reliable and financially stable partners. In the face of a crisis, quick decision-making responses and change are the keys.
What does the construction market currently look like and how is it changing?
Due to the rapid development of robotics, the construction sector is facing some major changes. The new reality encompasses non-standardised solutions and changing requirements that depend on the type of project or even the country where the construction is taking place. As usual, the construction industry is changing fastest in the places with the largest developments – big cities. We are glad to note that there are a number of positive changes: quality standards are on the rise, while ecological and occupational safety requirements are becoming the norm. In 2019, an increase in the added value of industrial, construction and service activities had the largest impact on the country’s GDP growth. The most important thing for any company is to keep going, to maintain the current achievements and to strive for improvement.
What competencies do you think are necessary for those interested in a career in the construction sector?
It’s wrong to believe that it’s enough to just understand how to carry out construction. Like any other successful business, a construction company must be able to adapt to change. A passion for lifelong learning, planning skills and teamwork, as well as the desire to improve and be a professional in your field are important qualities.
What professions are in demand? What do you think this depends on?
We are increasingly seeing a lack of project and construction managers who are able and, most importantly, willing to work on a construction site. As a result, the existing professionals often lack practical skills and knowledge. We believe that one of the main reasons for this lack is that fewer and fewer students are choosing to study these professions. People in Lithuania still don’t view working in the construction sector as a prestigious job. However, we are applying various working methods in our company and adhere to a work ethic, in order to show that the construction business is interesting and not as simple as it may seem at first glance. Most importantly, educational institutions should not neglect to work with businesses that can share experiences that will contribute to a student’s full preparation for the labour market.
VILNIUS TECH and JSC Conresta have signed a cooperation agreement. What are your expectations as you start working together?
For JSC Conresta, our goal is to find ways of improving the civil engineering study programme. One of the main goals is to promote greater compliance in the study programme, so that the students will be equipped meet the real expectations of the construction business. We want to provide the students with real internships and experiences on construction sites during the first years of their studies, so that they can challenge themselves by performing various tasks.
Do you have some projects in mind for university students and lecturers? Tell us more.
We want to start our cooperation slowly, with some simple actions that can be implemented immediately. The company’s specialists will give lectures to the students and provide them with necessary information, such as details of what is needed for a successful business in the construction sector today. The students will also have the opportunity to take part in an internship at Conresta from the first year. Of course, we are considering joint projects with university lecturers in the future, because we believe that science and business can interact to create added value.
You are a graduate of VILNIUS TECH. How do you apply the knowledge you gained at the university in practice?
I believe studying benefits everyone, and I’m certainly no exception. During my studies, I gained knowledge, while becoming more independent, mature, and learning to find a way out of any situation. The benefits of studying are really great, because it is what helps everyone broaden their horizons and make connections. The wide range of subjects I studied has broadened my professional horizons and improved my analytical skills.