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CanaData to focus on digital revolution, economic climate

Angela Gismondi
CanaData to focus on digital revolution, economic climate

This year, CanaData is going beyond a construction forecast conference to include how technology is changing the industry, the impacts it will have and how to stay ahead for the future.

“We felt we needed to shake it up but it’s not just that,” explained Alex Carrick, chief economist with CanaData and ConstructConnect.

“For the last two years, when people have been asking me about the construction outlook, I have said that knowing the forecast numbers is really only about half of the game. That’s only really about half of what you need to be prepared for the future. There are so many things happening on the technological side that you’ve got to keep up with. Everything is changing so rapidly.”

The conference will be held Oct. 18 at the Liberty Grand Entertainment Complex in Toronto. Half of the conference will feature the economic forecast and the other half will focus on technological change.

“It’s changes in your own business, changes in what your competitors are doing, because you’ve got to stay competitive,” Carrick said.

“Companies are working collaboratively with other companies now and to do that they’ve got to have these tools. They’ve got to understand what is going on in terms of BIM initiatives, virtual reality.”

For the technology portion of the event, there are four components: products, processes, education and issues.

It will include a presentation by James Benham, CEO of JBKnowledge Inc. entitled The Future is Now: How Today’s Tech is Disrupting the World’s Oldest Industry. It will also feature an interactive panel discussion called Digital Transformation and Innovation for Smart City Solutions with Dr. Rick Huijbregts, VP of Strategy and Innovation at George Brown College; Jason Cohen, director of digital experience with CAD MicroSolutions Inc.; Bianca Wylie, co-founder of Tech Reset Canada; and Benham. The panel will be followed by a question and answer period.

The afternoon will focus on the Outlook Express: Everything you Need to Know About Commercial and Residential Construction in 15 minutes. In addition to Carrick, speakers include Raymond Wong, VP of data operations for Altus Group’s Data Solutions team and Peter Norman, VP and chief economist at Altus Group.

In his address, CanaData’s Economic Overview Forecasts of Construction, Carrick will discuss how technological change is going to accelerate after 2020.

“One of the stories I will be telling is about how the workforce has been aging over the last 18 years,” explained Carrick. “Baby boomers have been giving an extra push to the aging workforce. That push will stop as of 2020, because as of 2020, every baby boomer will be aged 55 plus. There will still be people moving into the older worker cohort going forward but there won’t be the extra push from baby boomers. What that means is from 2020 on the age of the workforce is going to start shifting back towards a younger demographic.”

This is important because young people think differently, Carrick explained.

“Increasingly, the young people who are starting out in their careers are going to move into management positions and they look at things completely different than older people,” said Carrick.

This year’s conference will likely include discussions around trade as well, with Canada and the U.S. recently signing a new NAFTA deal, now called the USMCA.

“There are still the outstanding tariffs on aluminum, steel and softwood lumber that are inhibiting Canada’s potential, but getting into that trade agreement was a huge deal and I’m sure we will be discussing other trade issues,” said Carrick. “We’ve (Canada) actually come out of this in rather fortunate circumstances so that’s one of the things I will be mentioning and then where the potential lies for future construction activity. Also, I will compare employment in key sectors of the Canadian economy, how we’re doing versus the United States.”

The panel discussions and question and answer periods are intended to engage the audience, Carrick explained.

“Delegates have more access to the speakers because there are much longer question periods than we ever had before,” he said.

Carrick stated the conference gives a sense of the pulse of the industry and a glimpse at what’s to come.

“There has never been a more fluid time, more things in flux and there is all this uncertainty around trade, the economy and technology,” said Carrick. “The only way to succeed anymore is to be knowledgeable. We’re going to have a record attendance this year and I think it’s because this theme of combining technology with economic forecasts is resonating with a lot of people and we’re getting different delegates than we have in the past.”

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