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How gaming can be used to plug the skills gap

Games have always been popular, but digital technology has expanded the gaming industry thanks to increased realism, as well as accessibility.



How gaming can be used to plug the skills gap

Training is paramount to keeping skilled workers on hand across the manufacturing industry, but outdated methods don’t cut it anymore. As generations and technology change, gaming techniques will become a crucial element to getting the job done. Here’s why.

Boomers taking a bow

The Wall Street Journal reports, “The number of open manufacturing jobs has been rising since 2009, and this year [2016] stands at the highest level in 15 years, according to Labor Department data.” And that’s before you factor in the Baby Boomers.

There’s much concern — and rightly so — about the number of baby boomers reaching retirement age soon. Who will replace them? There are challenges at every turn, as points out: “The ranks of the Gen X workers are simply not enough, while many millennials lack the needed work experience. Foreign-born workers often face immigration challenges, while flexible or remote workers aren’t appropriate for every role.”

Further, changes in technology and machinery mean workers who previously filled these jobs — but were laid off —  no longer have the skills to perform them.

Good training is always important, but as the clock ticks down for the Boomers, it’s more crucial than ever. With millennials likely to comprise the bulk of the new workforce, that training needs to be tailored to their needs above all.

The millennial mindset

Of course, it’s not all about millennials — but progress continues forward no matter what generation you’re in. So embracing the technology and preferences of the youngest generation of workers makes sense for any forward-thinking organization.

SHIFT eLearning offers the following insights about millennials:

– They’re two-and-a-half times more likely to try new technology than prior generations

– They are seekers of knowledge — they don’t simply want an empty degree

– Half of them don’t believe learning only happens in a classroom

– Half of them won’t work for a company that bans social media

– The global workforce will comprise 75% of millennials by 2025

– The cost to replace a millennial worker is, on average, $24,000

If we take the first three bullets alone, it’s clear millennials are willing to learn — but sitting in a classroom with outdated technology like PowerPoints won’t get them excited to work for you. For manufacturers to attract and retain this generation of workers, they need to meet them at their level.

Christy Price, EdD, a psychology professor at Dalton State College – who created 5 R’s of engaging millennial learners — says, “They prefer learning materials that are delivered to cater to their visual, auditory and even kinesthetic needs.” At the same time, they want training to be “fun.”

Could there be a more obvious call for game-based training?

Life is a game

Games have always been popular, but digital technology has exploded the gaming industry thanks to increased realism, as well as accessibility. Whether it’s something seemingly simple like Candy Crush, or something more immersive like World of Warcraft, games are never more than a pocket or backpack away.

In a game, replaying a level reinforces the content, and you just can’t move on in the game without demonstrating that you understand each individual concept. (Source)

But games aren’t simply a diversion or distraction — they always involve a learning curve for players: “In a game, replaying a level reinforces the content, and you just can’t move on in the game without demonstrating that you understand each individual concept.” This is one of many reasons incorporating a gaming approach in training is so ideal.

Additionally, it makes sense for training to make use of everyday technology, especially when it’s so easy to incorporate and so effective.

Millennials — and the generation that will follow them, the centennials — are experts at the entirely new language of swiping, scrolling, pinching and tapping birthed by smartphones and tablets. Even Gen X-ers and most baby boomers are fluent in this language. These gestures are all that’s needed to navigate training “games” — like simulated equipment training and on-the-job scenarios, with testing and feedback along the way. And the results are much better than traditional training methods.

“Within an effective game-based learning environment, we work toward a goal, choosing actions and experiencing the consequences of those actions along the way,” states New Media Institute. “We make mistakes in a risk-free setting, and through experimentation, we actively learn and practice the right way to do things. This keeps us highly engaged in practicing behaviors and thought processes that we can easily transfer from the simulated environment to real life.”

That’s to say nothing of the increased retention and confidence that come with game-based learning.

The future of training

Gaming and simulation are the bare minimum of what manufacturers should aspire to in their training programs now – and smart companies are already using these methods. Someday soon enough, Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) will become the next “must haves” – and making the leap from PowerPoints to something like VR is like trying to run a marathon the day you learn how to walk.

Training technology like 3D Interactive Simulation is a necessary next step for all organizations planning to be around in another 10 or 20 years. Not only because millennials and centennials won’t stand for antiquated approaches, but because you can’t teach someone how to ride a bike with a PowerPoint. They need to DO it – without hurting themselves or others while they’re learning. This is true of manufacturer training as well.

“We constantly perform gap analyses to figure out what the industry is looking for and how we can help,” shares Tara Kilcullen, Director of Training Product Development at Raydon Corporation, “This was one of those ways! While some training requires a higher level of fidelity, others do not. Similarly, while some training requires physically pulling a trigger, there are others that can be sorted out through lower level applications. And most of it can translate into desktop training of some sort, even as a complementary component.”

But don’t get intimidated by what’s to come. Scalable, portable and modular game-based training via technology like 3D Interactive Simulation is as accessible as the nearest iPad. So embrace the change, and all its benefits — and let the games begin.

DISCLAIMER: This article expresses my own ideas and opinions. Any information I have shared are from sources that I believe to be reliable and accurate. I did not receive any financial compensation in writing this post, nor do I own any shares in any company I’ve mentioned. I encourage any reader to do their own diligent research first before making any investment decisions.

Raj Raheja is CEO of Heartwood, where he provides a leading voice for the future of 3D Interactivity and Visual technologies. He believes in meshing great technologies together and if it’s Visual and Interactive, he's interested in it!