New Meaning To Blue-Collar Jobs
Historically, blue-collar workers were the ones performing the most arduous, repetitive, physical tasks and were associated with industries like agriculture, manufacturing, construction, and logistics. Being a blue-collar worker meant, in short, getting your hands dirty. Nowadays, most of the physical tasks have been taken over by machines. Blue collars duties now include taking over responsibility for operating and repairing these machines. To support technology and to use it for performing tasks in the most effective way, blue collar workers require a certain level of digital literacy. Seeing how this employee group has gotten so much closer to technology and developed computer skills, why doesn’t it have access to eLearning yet?
According to a survey performed by Wellms.io in November 2022, 50% of companies surveyed declared that there are employee groups within the organization with abridged or nonexistent access to eLearning training. These groups included retail jobs, physical workers, and technicians.
While there obviously are certain differences between the industries, employees are usually trained in the following areas:
- obligatory health and safety training,
- on-the-job training,
- machine instructions and procedures,
- the right to practice a profession.
This training has always been conducted by a trainer, a role taken on by a manager, senior colleague, or a so-called “buddy.”
Conducting a live training session in a production environment involves certain challenges.
As the training is often conducted by company employees rather than external experts, the trainers and the trainees need to be taken out of the working schedule and provided a replacement. While conducting the training in groups may be more cost-effective, there are always absences bound to happen, which means the need to plan at least one extra training session. Additionally, any training at a workstation will require it to be temporarily taken out of the production line. After all this effort, an HR department will learn whether a particular training was completed or not, but there will be no trackable information on the progress.
All this means that Instructor-Led Training in the production context can be rather costly and logistically challenging, as well as difficult to track and report on.
The Wind Of Change
While Instructor-Led Training is dominant in the production industry, educational technology is slowly entering the training processes there.
E-kiosks are eLearning access points that allow employees to enter training materials whenever possible or necessary. They may take the form of a computer, secured from the production surroundings, or special terminals. The e-kiosks are usually single stands rather than e-cafes, so they offer training to a limited number of employees, and only when they can leave their duties.
If you need to make special arrangements to create an e-kiosk, why not go a step further and provide VR hardware and software? Training conducted in VR imitates a real working environment and allows for practicing certain tasks while removing any dangers and not withholding or slowing down the production. Some companies use VR simulations during recruitment processes to give a candidate a real taste of what the job actually entails and to diminish job resignations in the first days of work.
With e-kiosks offering on-demand knowledge and VR simulations helping employees train, where is the space for eLearning?
Soft Skills And Well-Being
After looking at training topics, it becomes apparent that blue collar workers are being trained solely on information necessary to correctly execute their tasks. There are no educational initiatives that would help them further develop their skills and interests, or help them get a raise or promotion. Additionally, the sole person responsible for the shape of the curriculum is the manager, not the employee themselves. All this has a rather negative influence on employees’ motivation to learn, as workers are actually happy and engaged to take on training activities allowing them to improve their work efficiency and are less prone to engaging in procedural training, which is the dominant curriculum element.
Blue-collar workers are strongly exposed to professional burnout, and this can be diminished with the right training. Broad training offerings for blue collar workers have been proven to increase their work motivation.
Training On Everyday-Use Devices
Offering selective, voluntary eLearning courses to blue-collar workers might have been a challenge in the past, when e-kiosks were the only access points for eLearning. With the latest technological advances, especially with the adoption of headless technology in eLearning, employees have all the possibilities in the palm of their hand, and I mean it literally. A headless LMS allows access to training content from literally any type of device, including handheld and production terminals, computers, VR goggles, and other smart devices. This means that an employee can access training from a device they work on every day. More than that, they can freely switch between the devices to continue training. This potentially allows companies to train their employees on a wider selection of topics with a diminished necessity to remove them from their duties. The same eLearning content can be offered to blue-collar and office workers, and the training activities of all the employees can be managed and reported from one system.
Blue collar workers want to get better at doing their jobs. They feel motivated when they can decide what to learn next. They need soft skills training and help with burnout syndrome just like any other employee group. The latest technological developments allow access to eLearning materials via devices of everyday use for blue-collar workers, such as HHTs or production terminals. This allows a more equal treatment of all the employee groups working within an organization.