In an environment where many manufacturing companies for years have struggled to find entry level and mid-level skilled workers, a new approach was needed.

When people traditionally think about education and job training, people tend to get their education first and then apply for a job. This is a model followed by the traditional school and university or community college system.

“The traditional approach is what I call the supply-push model where we train as many people as we can and hope that they will then be hired by a company,” says Rod Jones, Managing Director of the Work Based Learning Consortium (WBLC). “The challenge has been that this had led to significant gaps for companies in manufacturing where they can’t find the workers they need. It’s been a problem that has been around for years.”

Jones notes that it often has led to employers trying to poach workers from other employers, which doesn’t solve the supply issue.

Employers can’t find the skilled help they need outside of a limited pool of workers and, in recent years, have faced the additional challenge of an aging workforce and reality of upcoming retirements.

At the same time, job seekers often find that they are unable to acquire the technical skills that makes them attractive to employer for in-demand positions.

Changing the Business Model for Upskilling and Reskilling Workers

WBLC has flipped this traditional education and training model upside down by working with employers to hire the employee first, and then provide the requisite training.

“We recognized that we needed to focus on the demand side and implement a demand-pull approach,” says Jones. “We work with industry associations and companies who are short of skilled workers and make them an active part of the process of building a skilled workforce they require. We also require that employers hire the candidates first and then train them.”

“We work with industry associations and companies (who become) an active part of the process of building the skilled workforce they require. Employers hire the candidates first and then train them.” – Rod Jones, Managing Director of the Work Based Learning Consortium

WBLC has placed a heavy emphasis on making sure people who are selected into a program and hired by a company are a good fit for the job that they are being hired for, and for which they will be trained. That means finding potential jobseekers who have the aptitudes and attitudes that will be a good fit for the relevant positions available.

“We’ve developed a demand-driven, employer engaged, competency-based approach that has really proven to make a difference. It’s all based around seven principles that are core to everything we do.”

The seven principles include:

  1. Use objective, evidence-based competencies-based processes as the foundation for all selection, hiring, and training decisions and activities
  2. Be strongly industry-driven, with active employer engagement in defining competency-based job profiles/standards for each skilled job position and in delivering ‘on-the-job’ technical learning activities to achieve the defined technical learning outcomes
  3. Match job seekers with skilled jobs on the basis of the job-specific non-technical competencies required for job success, and provide competency gap coaching for those job seekers who are close to being a good match
  4. Be ‘demand-driven’ – build and/or deliver training programs to fill actual current job openings and require that employers hire Trainees as full-time, permanent employees at the start of their learning program (‘earn while they learn’) and/or nominate current employees as Trainees, to meet the company’s skills shortages
  5. Use a ‘blended learning’ method for technical training for job-specific technical knowledge and skills, which includes:
    • effective ‘on-boarding’ of Trainees and Company Trainers to the learning program
    • effective use of advanced learning technologies (e-Learning, VR/AI learning, micro-learning):
      • use e-Learning to carry the principal load for training but support as required with instructor-lead coaching on ‘hands-on’ skills e.g., use of hand and power tools;
      • closely align e-Learning ‘knowledge’ content with ‘practical skills’ learning on the shop floor
    • provide Trainees with structured experiential (on-the-job) learning guided by company job experts, who are well supported and guided in their training practices and have access to easy-to-use online tracking of Trainees’ progress
  6. Compensate employers for their key role in providing the Trainee with ‘on-the-job’ learning – subject to the Trainee’s successfully achievement of all required job-specific technical learning outcomes
  7. Use independent, valid, and reliable certification methods (competencies-based) to confirm Trainees’ successful mastery of all required technical learning outcomes.

“There are two controlling pieces in our approach,” adds Jones. “One is to set the job standard, meaning defining the technical learning outcomes for the position. This will drive the learning activity for our training program. The second factor is at the front end to make sure the people coming into the program are a good fit.”

A Proven Approach

WBLC has been able to demonstrate that this approach to training and reskilling employees is fast. Training is accomplished in less than half the time of traditional methods and it has proven to be reliable, with a 90% success rate. Finally, it also has proven to be very cost efficient, cutting in half the traditional costs of obtaining the skilled employees that companies need.

“Employers are very happy with our 90% success rate given that many hired had not worked in manufacturing before.” – Rod Jones, Managing Director of the Work Based Learning Consortium

WBLC has worked with more than 80 different companies, helping them to find more than 800 trainees. More than 90% of the trainees who have completed their training achieved WBLC certification.

“We’re proud of our success rate that 90% of trainees achieved their certification,” says Jones. “Many were young people (18-29), who had a high-school diploma and had not worked in manufacturing before. By having a job standard and a certification process, we’ve developed work-based learning programs that lays out a training process that brings trainees along and provides benchmarks that allow them to demonstrate that they have learned the competencies set out in the job standard. It’s proven to be a winning model for employers, their trainees, the industry itself, and the government in supporting industry to increase productivity and prosperity.”

Contact Rod Jones to learn more!