Upskilling and Reskilling Workers to Improve Supply Chain Resilience

Tapping into the large talent pool of available workers due to COVID-19 can help to address the skill gap challenges within the industry.

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Over the past year, the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has sent shockwaves across industries with varying effects. While many industries are experiencing record high unemployment, the manufacturing and industrial sectors – especially those central to supply chains – find themselves simultaneously operating increased production demands with reduce capacity levels. This is due to the risk mitigation efforts continued to be implemented to reduce the potential spread of the virus.

By tapping into the new talent pool left in the wake of COVID-19, organizations can address the talent shortage that has plagued manufactures for years. Organizations were already set to address skill gap challenges prior to the pandemic. According to a January 2020 report by the Manufacturing Institute, manufacturers were set to spend $26.2 billion on internal and external training initiatives for new and existing employees to combat the shortage of available workers.

As production demand is expected to continue to increase and capacity levels at facilities are expected to remain below pre-COVID-19 operating levels, manufacturers will need to ensure workers have the ability to gain new skills to help in their current role (upskilling) and provide skills training enabling to take on different or entirely new roles (reskilling) to optimize efficiency and productivity across the supply chain. Unfortunately, due to the diverse nature of the deskless workforce within these industries, many do not have immediate access to learning and development methods that are often easily accessible to other sectors. They have traditionally relied on large in-person training sessions, which aren’t currently cost-effective as more organizations are utilizing smaller, efficient, flexible shifts.

Virtual learning and development programs will be critical to incorporate the latest safety policies while maintaining productivity and efficiency at the same time. Prior to being exposed to the physical work environment, workers will need to learn to maneuver through these new safety procedures and safely perform them in a cost-effective manner. This will allow for current and new employees to be sufficiently trained for new job functions across the industry. Embracing virtual learning will also allow for the recruitment and hiring of those who lost their job within the last year or looking for a career change.

These on-demand solutions provide a hassle-free way for employees to conduct training independently and at their own pace. Ensuring ease of access to training, employees have the flexibility and agility needed to meet the compliance certifications their employers need for the foreseeable future.

When choosing a learning and development systems, organizations need to make sure it is customizable and meets the needs of their workforce’s demographic. Additionally, virtual learning and development systems need to support hybrid training methods and accommodate employees with limited/no digital skills. To ensure compliance, learning and development systems should be continuously updated to guarantee it fits evolving federal, local and state regulations.

These solutions should also allow employers to conduct training utilizing monitoring and measurement tools to maintain employee pace, progress, engagement and aptitude during the learning sessions. To ensure the retention of course content, on-demand solutions should monitor employee’s progression through the courseware to ensure that they aren’t haphazardly clicking through the session. This means managers should take proactive measures at the individual level to ensure employees are trained for the task at hand by providing feedback and a vast library of training content from various vendors to assist employees (current and new) with a deeper understanding.  

Throughout the virtual training session, organizations should provide appealing course content from multiple sources offering enjoyable subject matter and providing virtual “thumbs up” for correct answers on knowledge tests and quizzes. As well, the solution should detect areas where the employee may need additional training and automatically offer that supplemental material to address the need. This prepares the employee for any hands-on portion that will follow the virtual session.

For example, to prepare current employees (upskilling) for new technology at the worksite, employers can begin the training process virtually. The virtual training component can be completed onsite using communal tablets in a dedicated learning annex, improving access to the training for employees who do not have a compatible smart device. Then the employee would complete the in-person portion of the training, following best safety practices, including personal protective equipment, social distancing, temperature checks and various touchless technologies to reduce the potential of viral spread during the session.

Tapping into the large talent pool of available workers due to COVID-19 can help to address the skill gap challenges within the industry. Using virtual learning systems to train newly acquired employees and upskilling of current employees is a cost-effective strategy for boosting productivity and worker knowledge. This helps to guarantee employees have the knowledge and skills to take on multiple roles and even new responsibilities. And organizations can continue operating with minimum supply chain disruptions - allowing manufacturers to be more profitable in the long run.