The labor market is getting tight for all manufacturing industries. A study by The Manufacturing Institute and Deloitte predicts in the next decade nearly 3.5 million U.S. manufacturing jobs will need to be filled and finding qualified persons to staff those positions will be difficult.
By now, the skills gap is a term with which manufacturers has become well acquainted. But honestly, the picture is worse; we’re facing a double skills gap.
At the same time there is a lack of qualified workers who have the expertise to be considered for the jobs available, Baby Boomers are retiring in droves. This so-called “Gray Wave” means organizations are losing more than people—they are losing institutional knowledge.
The Digital Dynamic
Workers are going to have to be trained, and fast, to run plants. But even before the onboarding begins, companies must have a robust screening process in place to accurately assess the skill level of job applicants.
There has been much talk of manufacturing needing to digitize operations. But what about digitizing your staffing process? When was the last time you took a hard look at your training program? Is it classroom/instructor based? How effective is the training? How ready and able are new employees to troubleshoot their first day on the plant floor?
The problem with traditional classroom-based training is that it doesn’t allow students to learn and practice problem-solving skills in a realistic environment. Training using simulation methods, on the other hand, immerses students in conditions that are representative of the real world, but are artificial. Simulation training is particularly useful in applications such as the manufacturing plant floor because students can practice safely without causing harm to others or themselves, or damage expensive equipment.
Studies looking at how much students’ engage with and retain the material presented in different teaching methods show that simulation training transfers more information to students than if they had just read or listened to the lessons. Also, simulation allows learners to interact with equipment and take note of the changes they make.
An important note to keep in mind is that the next group of manufacturing workers will be Millennials. This generation has grown up playing video and computer games and utilizing gamification-techniques, such as merit badges and scoreboards, will speak directly to this new workforce. Using gamification methods in simulation training can be powerful, but systems must be designed with care so that students are not merely engaging with the “game,” but with the underlying content.
There are a number of ways to use simulation to develop the workforce, such as using an autonomous program that guides the trainee through the use of hints and feedback, or using an instructor who walks the class through the system. Simulation can be implemented using a variety of methods.
For instance, Simutech Multimedia’s Troubleshooting Skills Training System trains workers to troubleshoot for electrical faults through modules that present content in manageable chunks, from basic to more advanced levels of knowledge. It provides students with guidance and feedback, tests what they have or have not gleaned and continues to build on each individual’s level of learning. And the modules can be used on their own or in a classroom setting.
Simutech has found that workers who are properly trained in a systematic method don’t need to use trial and error to repair faults. They troubleshoot quickly, safely and efficiently, without replacing parts unnecessarily and costing businesses downtime.
Since 1995, Simutech Multimedia has helped over 500 global manufacturing companies and 200 schools onboard electrical maintenance staff. The company will be exhibiting at Pack Expo, booth E-9440.