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E-learning: Evolving to Bridge the Industrial Skills Gap

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No matter who or where you are, it’s nearly impossible to ignore the seismic shifts happening in how we live and work. Thanks to advances in consumer technology, our lives are more digital than ever. Spending much of our waking hours looking at screens and devices is the new normal. And it affects the way we sleep, eat, move, travel, and learn.

What does this have to do with the industrial skills gap? Everything.

Manufacturers and employers as a whole have been hearing it for years: there’s a skills gap in the workforce, it’s threatening your ability to thrive (and in some cases, survive) and it’s only growing bigger. In fact, the number of industrial jobs that are going unfilled may hit 2.4 million less than a decade from now. 

The industry has evolved, and the skillsets required for many jobs are much more advanced than they used to be. The result is, manufacturers are in desperate need of workers with specific skill sets – and jobs are remaining vacant. As companies have changed in exciting technological ways, it seems workers haven’t evolved their skills at the same pace. But there’s a potential game changer: e-learning.

E-learning: A Game Changer?

Primary and higher education have been using e-learning for many years, and its popularity is growing in the workforce as well. In fact, corporate e-learning has grown by 900% in the past 16 years.

It’s easy to see why digital learning is so prominent. Workers don’t have the time to travel offsite to sit through a long class. Employers may not have as much budget to facilitate that training, nor can they afford to let workers leave the plant floor for extended periods in the midst of worker shortages.

What digital learning introduces to the training equation is flexibility – it helps employers train people in ways they are used to consuming content. It’s not that traditional hands-on, instructor-led training is going away; in fact, it’s still very relevant. But with less availability to dedicate large chunks of time to training, e-learning could be the perfect solution for the specific training needs workers are facing today.

Unlike some types of traditional education, which may force students to learn theory that they’ll never actually put into practice, digital learning drives home the basics of success for a specific task or role. It trains people on exactly what they need to know, and how to apply it, in order to their jobs – an intuitive solution when most workers don’t have the skills they need to help fill that skills gap.

Embracing Microlearning

E-learning enables “just-in-time” training, or microlearning. This means workers can access focused, bite-sized pieces of relevant content on tasks or procedures when it’s convenient for them. And learning at their own pace allows them to pause, rewind, fast-forward and find the right information at any time.

Of course, there are different types of learners, ranging from traditional to hybrid to modern – and there’s no one-size-fits-all training method. But offering microlearning and digital options to all types of learners, of all generations, is proving to be worthwhile for many employers. Believe it or not, many of the early adopters of e-learning have been Baby Boomers!

There are few downsides to digital learning, especially in an era when nearly every single company in the manufacturing space worldwide is facing skills and labor shortages due to the industrial skills gap. This is one effective way to start closing that gap. Training workers on the very specific skills needed to do their jobs – but in a way that allows them the freedom and flexibility to learn when and where it’s convenient for them – is a win-win.

Time is a precious resource for all of us. Introduce e-learning to workers and encourage them to make time to train and grow their skill sets. It not only improves the productivity of your operations but also encourages workers to take ownership of their skills and career paths in an incredibly empowering way. 

As technology continues to change, so must learning tools. And as the skills gap continues to evolve, we need to equip people with those tools to continue to learn and grow so they are employable. E-learning is a crucial tool – it puts training in the proper context, allows just-in-time, interactive learning at a worker’s desired pace, and provides easy access via mobile devices.

Melissa Sadey
Melissa Sadey
Curriculum Development Manager, Training Services, Rockwell Automation
Melissa Sadey

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