A skills gap is the result of misalignment between manual, operational, and technical workforce skills and job competencies. For industrial organizations, the inability to find skilled workers for open positions has resulted in the biggest skills shortage of the last 30 years. The Manufacturing Institute reports that “manufacturers consistently cite the inability to attract and retain talent as their top concern.” And this is a task made even more urgent under the pressures of a tight labor market and an aging workforce.
A skills gap that has grown this large can’t be attributed to one cause. For industrial organizations, it comes down to an outdated, archaic view of manufacturing, complex products and processes, and retiring experts:
When it comes to getting new hires up to speed, manufacturing leaders can’t rely on help from tenured employees for long. More and more experts are retiring—taking decades of expertise out the door with them.
As the number of workers drops, so does the level of workforce talent. To keep domain knowledge, manufacturing leaders must act now by investing in technology before they lose their valuable experts to retirement—and before they cede talented candidates to competitors.
As configurations and product variants increase and factory floors become more complex, equipment is more challenging to service and manufacture. This impacts productivity—particularly for new hires.
New employees need time to learn how to work with complex equipment and processes—especially when they’re relying on dated, paper-based work instructions. Guidance from experienced employees can supplement existing work instructions and accelerate on-the-job learning, but this often requires experts to take time away from their own tasks. This approach is costly and difficult to scale over time—and companies can no longer rely on employees’ memory and skill retention through increasing complexities.
Until manufacturers address these challenges, the skills gap will remain an issue. To stay competitive, leaders must develop new mechanisms to attract, train, and retain skilled employees. By addressing the challenges associated with workforce training and performance support, augmented reality (AR) empowers employees to help shrink the manufacturing skills gap.
Manufacturers are turning to AR to build skills across their workforce. With AR, leaders engage both new and tenured employees through immersive experiences that help attract and retain talent, improve training outcomes, and increase workplace safety.
AR provides an immersive, interactive work experience that helps attract and retain a generation of employees that has grown up in a digital world—also known as “digital natives.” At career events, manufacturers can differentiate their company brand and culture through innovative AR content with 3D computer-aided design (CAD) and Internet of Things (IoT) data. With AR work instructions, digital natives use familiar, visual technology to accelerate on-the-job learning, onboarding, training, and overall engagement. And with AR inspection instructions, even inexperienced employees can complete inspections more efficiently than they could with paper-based instructions.
Upskilling workers is a sure-fire way to shrink the manufacturing skills gap. But where’s the best place to start when existing training methods create roadblocks to efficiency? And how can new hires hit the ground running when they lack the tools they need to do their jobs effectively and safely?
AR is proven to improve training outcomes and reduce errors with visual experiences that accelerate employee understanding—even for the most complex products and processes. AR technology helps manufacturers capture subject matter expertise and create immersive training experiences that can be updated when needed. New employees get expert guidance at any time without interrupting other projects or waiting for the latest instructions to be printed and distributed. That also means tenured employees save valuable time, and leadership saves the costs associated with paper-based training materials.
Workplace safety and engagement are top priorities for manufacturing leaders—especially as new hires begin to learn their roles and responsibilities on the job. People-centric digital tools like AR are key to engaging both new and existing employees.
AR solutions give inexperienced employees the information they need at a moment’s notice, empowering them to complete their tasks as safely as possible. And due to their visual nature, AR experiences with 3D and IoT technology are particularly engaging for digital natives. With knowledge capture and AR work instructions, they get an innovative training experience with expert insights and best practices. If the employee requires over-the-shoulder support, augmented remote assistance can connect them with an expert from anywhere. And during inspections, even inexperienced employees can leverage CAD-based instructions for precise visual guidance to minimize errors and improve inspection compliance.
One leading manufacturer of protective packaging used AR-based training to build workforce skills. Intertape Polymer Group (IPG) realized its current training strategy left a skills gap across manufacturing and operations. When the pandemic exacerbated those challenges, leadership faced an urgent task to attract talent and capture expert knowledge before it was too late.
IPG decided to use AR so its training content could be used for data visibility in the future. With PTC’s Vuforia Expert Capture, IPG empowers employees at any seniority level with innovative experiences for skills development training and improved on-the-job safety.
The only way to beat the manufacturing skills gap is by attracting and retaining talent while maximizing expert knowledge through progressive training tactics. With AR, manufacturers achieve those goals and more through immersive, interactive, and innovative training experiences.
Claire is a Content Marketing Manager on PTC's Commercial Marketing team. She creates content in support of PTC products and solutions.