Manufacturers are behind the curve when it comes to using digital learning tools to create, grow, & retain their workforces. According to the LinkedIn 2018 learning report, 90% of companies in America offer digital learning tools to their employees. A survey conducted by 180 Skills shows that less than 20% of U.S. manufacturers offer digital learning tools, and those who do tend to focus on the development of their salaried workforce. The use of digital online learning for production workers is almost non-existent.

According to the US Department of Labor, 2018 was a record year for employment with more than 2.6 million jobs added, and eight consecutive months with unemployment below 4%.

While this is good news for job-seekers, it’s bad news for companies looking for skilled workers because chances are the skilled folks have a job.

For manufacturers this means that they have to be able to transform any job-seeker into a skilled worker, and they have to do it quickly, consistently, efficiently, and at a low-cost. While this may seem like an impossible task, digital learning tools can make this an achievable goal.

Further results from our survey indicate the following:

There’s a reason that 90% of companies use digital learning to create, grow, & retain their skilled workforces. Digital learning is there when you need it, the educational message is consistent, and the ROI is significant.

Because manufacturing requires the use of “hands”, there’s a misconception that manufacturing technical skills can’t be taught in an online medium. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. Self-paced, online courses do a much better job of teaching the technology than traditional “mouth-to-ear” on-the-job, or classroom training methods. Online courses don’t depend upon the teaching style of the person training, nor do they require that trainer to be fully versed in the technology. Comprehensive online courses can cover technical topics in more depth and detail, and they can do it in 70% less time.

Students who learn manufacturing technology online are far better prepared to use their “hands” than students who learn in a classroom and lab setting.

Manufacturing technology is a river that runs wide and deep

In the IT world, a student many only have to learn a couple of programming languages to be job-ready. The breadth and depth of technology in manufacturing makes coding look easy. Most manufacturers can only dream about having the time and resources to teach all of the technology they use. The best solution for manufacturers is to look to external manufacturing skills training providers for scalable, consistent repositories of online courses that can be deployed 24/7.

Manufacturing really is cool – show them you mean it

As manufacturers struggle with how to make manufacturing jobs more attractive to the next-generation of workers, they need to show them that they have to learning tools to which they are accustomed. It’s how they want to learn. Pairing a twenty-something new hire with a thirty year incumbent for training is a recipe for disaster. The “old folks” simply don’t know how to engage the young people. In many cases they simply don’t have the patience. It doesn’t take long before the new hire realizes their fate is in the hands of someone who’s coasting to retirement and they bolt for the door.

We will be continually updating the results we see from our employer, academic and workforce partners so stay tuned in 2019. We think this will be a transformational year for manufacturers in terms of recruiting and training practices.

Joe Kitterman, CEO, 180 Skills www.180skills.com