In many ways, manufacturing is sitting on the precipice of a potentially exciting but still uncertain future. Automation looms, carrying both promises of innovation and the potential to drastically disrupt existing industry practices and norms. At the same time, some specific manufacturing positions are remaining unfilled due to a skills gap disparity between worker qualifications and industry demand.
One way to address this uncertainty is to provide the exact training necessary for jobs at hand rather than waiting for workers with specific skills to come along. This win-win opportunity gives company hiring leaders exactly what they need and helps workers avoid training for a potentially obsolete skill set. On-the-job training allows for on-the-spot skill development. Coupled with technological advancements that make on-the-job training more practical, it’s easy to see why so many manufacturers are turning to this practice.
Training in action
One example that sits at the intersection of these concerns is Stanley Black & Decker Inc. Leaders of the tools and storage company, hoping to capitalize on the “smart factory” design built around IoT technology, have announced plans to build an advanced manufacturing training and research center. Fifty employees will staff the center and train the next generation of Black & Decker manufacturing experts who will then take the techniques they learn back to their respective Stanley manufacturing sites to train employees there.
Another innovation for on-the-job training can be seen in Marion Technical College’s mobile training center unveiling. The lab, which grew out of a $1 million grant, aims to bring training directly to companies rather than serve employees off-site. Professors developed courses with input from dozens of nearby manufacturers, promising to match their unique needs and prepare students to meet them.
On-the-job training benefits are readily apparent. Employees have opportunities to build the skills they need to advance in their careers. It takes the guessing game out of workforce preparation by specifically matching technical skills to the jobs that require them. For employers, on-the-job training ensures work is done to manufacturing plant leaders’ satisfaction and opens the door for more qualified employees available for every position. If they can’t find the right new hires for certain jobs, they can train the best-suited employees.
Researchers at the National Fund for Workforce Solutions explored these benefits and found on-the-job training met expectations for 96% of employers in 2013. In addition, 92% of employees considered themselves good at their jobs or perceived a skills increase after completing training.
The downsides to on-the-job training lie primarily in implementation and continuous upkeep. As needs for manufacturing positions change with increasing technological advancements, facility leaders need to update their training methods as well. This means manufacturers will need to invest both time and money to ensure they make up-to-date training opportunities available as well as incentivize and give employees time to participate in courses. These downsides, though, can become strengths if employers recognize their opportunities to use training and development time to carefully consider future tech advancement prospects and circumstances for growth.