Wind Turbine Blade Repair Training Reaches New Heights

Wind Turbines dot the landscape across Canada, standing 85 metres (280 feet) tall. That means a lot of the repair and maintenance involves people working high in the air to service these clean energy sources. Training is an important element and Work-Based Learning Consortium (WBLC) has created an introductory Wind Turbine Blade Repair program to assist in training new or recent hires. Funding for WBLC was provided by the Future Skills Centre.

Unknown to Most – Blades Require Repairs

“It’s a pretty severe environment for wind turbines,” says Aaron Miller, President of Composites Canada, which provides composite material to companies in many industries across Canada. “These blades don’t look like they’re doing much, lazily trundling away but, just given their sheer size, the tip speed can reach 100+ mph (160+ km/h), sometimes double that. So, you get a lot of erosion (caused by) anything that happens to be in the air (striking the spinning blades). You also get ice damage falling from an adjacent blade, among other things.”

“In many industries, you can bring the product inside for a repair. This is extremely impractical with wind turbine blades  – Aaron Miller, President of Composites Canada

Frank Sabatier, Wind Technical Manager at Mistras Group Inc., agrees with the importance of doing a lot of work out in the field.

“Many companies don’t want to take the blades down unless they absolutely have to because it takes a five-figure sum to take them down and put them back up, involving cranes and other things,” says Sabatier, who works with technicians both in the U.S. and Canada. “Add in the logistical challenges with road access, platforms, and much more to overcome.”

Skilled Workers Required to Repair Blades

Training new workers and keeping technicians up to speed is an ongoing challenge and comes in several forms.

Sabatier says there are some courses offered by technical colleges, but a large portion of the training is done directly by companies using their own training curriculum. Training is also offered by original equipment manufacturers (OEMS) who build the wind turbines.

“Most big OEMs are located in the U.S., so if a technician were to start working for Siemens or GE, they would receive their training in the U.S., because Canada just doesn’t have the facilities,” says Sabatier.

Training in composite materials is an area that Miller believes could use some assistance.

“There’s not a lot of training content or training material for the composite industry. Composites pop up in all kinds of strange and unexpected ways,” says Composites Canada’s Miller. “Wind turbines are fairly obvious because there aren’t very many other suitable materials to make these blades.”

WBLC Introduces an Upskilling Option

WBLC launched a pilot entry level Wind Turbine Blade Repair training program in 2023 that focuses on working with composite materials. The training was offered in conjunction with Relay Education, which delivers renewable energy and environmental education and training programs in classrooms and communities.

The WBLC program is designed to initiate people into the wind turbine industry. It covers applications and equipment used in wind turbine blades, mathematics, and understanding work documents.

Composite Canada’s Miller worries that there are gaps in the knowledge of working with composites in the field, so he welcomed the opportunity to work with WBLC on constructing a new entry level training program.

“This is a great program for a level-one person to learn about the industry,” say Reema Duggal, a lead for the virtual learning initiatives with Work-Based Learning Consortium (WBLC), who designs much of the e-Learning. “The reality is that there is no training for wind blade repair, locally, or that we can find in Canada. Each of the companies does their own training. So, this is a way to entice people to come to the industry and find out what the job is all about.

“For people interested in the industry, if you’ve gone through this our training, you are a much more valued applicant,” adds Duggal.

Trainees Found the Upskilling Program Valuable

“This WBLC program was definitely very helpful with a few videos and also quizzes that were at the end of each unit and that definitely helped me gain more knowledge,” says Justin Lau, a York University environmental studies student, who took a Relay Education Wind Energy Operations course at Holland College in PEI and then completed the WBLC training.

“I’ve had a great introduction to the industry for wind turbine blade repairs and I am definitely way more confident in doing it in real life” – Justin Lau, Relay Education Wind Energy Operations student

“I have not worked with fibreglass or carbon fibre or any type of composites before, but I think with this eLearning course, I’ve had a great introduction to the industry for wind turbine blade repairs and I am definitely way more confident in doing it in real life. I’ve learned a lot of the basics, especially with the composition of wind turbine blades and also a lot on the fibreglass repairing units.”

Lau says he’s likely to pursue a career in the wind industry, starting out as a wind turbine blade repair technician.

Another student, Ahmad Jabar has a background in electronics and is very interested in Green Energy. He also took Relay Education’s Wind Energy Operations course and then also followed up with the WBLC program.

“It was very helpful indeed! I really enjoyed every part of it and got to learn about many concepts that I had no idea about before enrolling in the program,” says Jabar. “Knowing about the whole process for Blades manufacturing was insightful and informative. It was interesting to learn about the difference in fiberglass and carbon fiber.

“It was surprising and intriguing to know about the procedure on how to fix blades defects while hanging in the air,” adds Jabar. “I think e-Learning is very convenient and it helps specifically when having busy schedules. To study at my own pace helped do more with my time.”

Work is planned to expand the new Wind Turbine Blade Repair program and develop other programs required by the Wind Turbine industry.

Closing the Information Gap Around Upskilling & Reskilling

Upskilling or reskilling is happening daily across the country as organizations seek to narrow the skills gap. But surprisingly, it appears that many businesses do little in terms of tracking such an important component of their training strategy, resulting in an inability to make evidence-based decisions around workforce training.

Leveraging some data collection capabilities, employers could potentially make better utilization of their staffing requirements and their training needs. They could ask themselves:

  • How many employees working in their current job would realize a performance improvement with additional training?
  • How many employees could be moved to a more complex job with additional training?
  • How many employees could move into a different job with comparable complexity with additional training?

By answering these questions, could employers potentially make more informed decisions about their staffing and training mix? Would government policy makers be better informed if they had more relevant data on actual upskilling and reskilling requirements?  We think so.

What is Upskilling and Reskilling?

It’s useful to have a baseline understanding of the two terms ‘upskilling’ and ‘reskilling’.

Upskilling: Training existing employees to meet the changing skill requirements for their existing job.

Reskilling: Training existing employees with a new set of skills for a new job within the company.

Upskilling is often the terminology used when hiring new employees who lack direct work experience in their new job.

“These definitions are typically used to define training for existing employees, but they also can be used for new employees,” says Morley Gunderson, a Canadian labour economist and Professor Emeritus at the Centre for Industrial Relations and Human Resources, University of Toronto. “There are no hard and fast definitions in the literature out there.”

Work Based Learning Consortium (WBLC) discovered some companies have a broader view of upskilling.

“Many of the employers we work with had a broader definition of upskilling,” says Wayne Lamon, Director, Programs, WBLC. “They consider upskilling to include training existing employees already in a specific position, as well as the new hires.”

Lamon explains that several employers, who had hired a large number of new employees at one time, wanted to ensure these new employees all achieved a specific level of competency. But they also wanted existing staff (not just the newly hired employees) in a specific job, such as CNC machinists, to receive that same training.

“This ensures that everyone learns and uses the same processes and terminology on the job, whether they are a new hire or an existing employee,” adds Lamon. “It’s tremendously beneficial and many of these employers noted that our upskilling training led to a strong uptick in efficiency and productivity across the board.”

The Information Gap Around Upskilling/Reskilling

While it is assumed that there is a lot of upskilling and reskilling occurring, WBLC discovered that few companies track it with any thoroughness.“

If you’re a policy maker or a corporate executive and trying to sort through the challenges of the skills gap, you’ll likely be surprised to learn that there is no valid data source available for upskilling,” says Lamon. Further he goes on to say – “How much upskilling is being undertaken by employers? What assistance is required around upskilling? How much upskilling work is being undertaken by employers on their own?”

There’s an information gap that currently exists. Lamon believes WBLC has a solution to address this knowledge gap.

Creating an Upskilling Database for Industry and Government

As a result, WBLC has engaged with Future Skills Centre (a Government of Canada initiative dedicated to helping Canadians gain the skills needed to thrive in today’s changing labour market) to build a conceptual upskilling data collection system and work with some Canadian companies on a trial application of that system.

The first step was to conduct research around upskilling. This involved looking at the definitions of upskilling and reskilling. It also involved looking at what type of information is available to help companies and policy makers with decision making regarding upskilling and reskilling. WBLC also researched trends around upskilling and reskilling.There was a surprising amount of information about upskills/reskilling, but very little in the form of data.

“If I’m an employer with an internal skills challenge and I’m facing the great resignation after the pandemic, I need to know what’s happening in the general market. For those in the industry, finding the right information is likely to prove challenging,” – Canadian labour economist and Professor Emeritus at the Centre for Industrial Relations and Human Resources, University of Toronto

“If I’m an employer with an internal skills challenge and I’m facing the great resignation after the pandemic, I need to know what’s happening in the general market. For those in the industry, finding the right information is likely to prove challenging,” says Gunderson, who conducted the research elements of this project. “The real problem is ‘sorting the wheat from the chaff’, or as we say more formally in the statistical analysis, ‘finding the signal given the noise’ that’s out there.”

The second step was to build a data collection system, which WBLC recently completed.

WBLC also has identified an industry group to pilot and test the system, which will include working with Linamar of Guelph and the Canadian Association of Mold Makers (CAMM) member companies.

“We’re just about to launch this aspect of the project and it will be fascinating to see the results,” says Lamon. “We believe employers and policy makers within government could really benefit from this new type of information.”

Benefits of data tracking

Lastly, Lamon explains that tracking upskilling and reskilling data could potentially lead to better informed, evidence-based decisions.
For example, by evaluating the data, executives at a trade association could verify at a glance that while there are 2,000 vacancies for a particular position within the industry, there also are an additional 3,000 people already employed in that role who require upskilling.

“Equipped with this information, industry can potentially reach out to government to talk about how they could collaborate to address the issue and government policy makers will have a clearer understanding of the whole picture because data would now exist to support decision making,” adds Lamon.

Training Your Technical Trainer FIRST Results in Lasting Benefits for Your Company

Benefits of Training your Technical Trainer First

  • Newly hired employees become more proficient faster
  • Reduce rework and generate less scrap
  • Training existing employees on new equipment/processes
  • Experienced skilled workers spend less time training
  • Safer workers with fewer accidents

On-the-job training happens across the country every day but how that training is delivered can greatly impact the effectiveness of the training. Companies often ask their most knowledgeable, experienced workers to be trainers since they possess the expertise which the trainee needs to learn to do the job. In the manufacturing, maintenance and technical service industries, these trainers are often called Technical Trainers.

But just because they have the experience, it doesn’t mean that these trainers have learned how to pass along that knowledge to others.

“if (the employer’s technical trainers) are trained in effective job instruction, they will make a significant positive difference in how quickly and effectively the trainee is learning” –  Pavel Wegrzyn, a mentor/coach with Work Based Learning Consortium

“We’ve seen in our programs with clients that their technical trainer, if they are trained in effective job instruction, they will make a significant positive difference in how quickly and effectively the trainee is learning,” says Pavel Wegrzyn, a mentor/coach with Work-Based Learning Consortium (WBLC).

A key aspect of WBLC’s hybrid approach to training and e-learning includes a train-the-trainer element called the Technical Training Effectiveness Workshop (TTEW), which provides rapid and effective training for the trainers onsite. It equips the employers’ most experienced skilled workers to be more effective in their training efforts.

“When we started thinking of creating the Technical Training Effectiveness Workshop, we asked companies if they felt a train-the-trainer program is needed or would be helpful,” says Rod Jones, Managing Director of WBLC. “Companies said there was nothing they could find that would help their trainers. Or, when there was a program, they’d have to send their trainers off-site for several weeks or send them to a long program where training trainers was only one element.”

There clearly was a need for a rapid, focused program on job instruction training and WBLC set out to address it.

Maximizing Adult Learning Effectiveness

WBLC recognizes how busy trainers are with their work. Leadership coach, facilitator and organizational development consultant Bob Nager worked with WBLC to develop the workshop which consists of two 90-minute virtual sessions. After completing the workshops, trainers are supported by weekly meetings with WBLC mentor coaches.

“Our approach has been to get employers to identify experts on the job, who have been doing their job for years, and then provide them with directly relevant knowledge and a proven time-tested process to be able to effectively do technical training,” says Bob Nager, who also has a Master’s degree in Adult Education, Workplace Learning and Change from the University of Toronto.

“Adults learn much better when they are self-directed and self-motivated,” says Nager. “People will retain knowledge much better when they understand ‘why’. If you just go by rote and teach people material, maybe they’ll learn it, but it won’t work as well as allowing them to understand the reasons why they’re doing things.”

The workshop also includes an experiential learning element where trainees watch a trainer perform a task they are about to learn. The trainees are asked to replicate the task and explain why they are doing what they’re doing – integrating it into their thinking. The examples used in the workshop are crafted by the WBLC Learning team and then put on video to demonstrate the trainer instructing a trainee in tasks that are relevant to the job sector using the program.

A Proven Methodology – from WWII to Modern Lean Manufacturing

Nager explains that the WBLC Technical Training Effectiveness Workshop is based on a methodology called Training Within Industry (TWI) that originated during the Second World War by the U.S. government. TWI has since been adopted by the Lean manufacturing sector.

“Not unlike the challenges facing manufacturers today, the war effort required bringing thousands of people into factories in a very short time, where many had no previous manufacturing experience,” explains Nager. “They recognized they needed to rapidly upskill workers quickly to deliver quality outcomes.”

“The TWI methodology is a tried and tested methodology adopted by the Lean manufacturing sector. We have lots of evidence that it really delivers great outcomes,” adds Nagar.

The training workshop provides technical trainers with an easy-to-use framework for performing their training work. Previous attendees have repeatedly shared with us that the WBLC framework gives them confidence in working with their trainees. The technical trainers also are taught to recognize that people learn differently and learn tips on how to factor that into their instructional approach.

After the workshop, the technical trainers have weekly calls with coach monitors to help them with challenges they’re encountering, discuss progress made, answer any questions related to the training methodology, as well as provide tips. These weekly calls are additional support for the trainers and also are used to evaluate the effectiveness of both the TTEW workshop and the trainers themselves.

Valuing the Training

The train-the-trainer workshop has advantages for both the company and the trainers. Sometimes, experienced workers are asked to train others in addition to their regular day-to-day duties. This can be a challenge.

“The Technical Training Effectiveness Workshop demonstrates that the company acknowledges that technical training is as part the trainer’s individual’s job,” adds Nagar. “Now there’s the acknowledgement from the employer. Trainers are pleased to have their training skill recognized, and really start to take pride in bringing their trainees along. It immediately increases their confidence.”

The effect is improved training results, a faster training process, reduced re-training time, less rework and scrap, and safer workers with fewer accidents. The result is faster payback for employers.

“Knowledge obtained from WBLC’s Technical Training Effectiveness Workshop is an enduring asset…it continually pays dividends ” – Rod Jones, Managing Director of the Work Based Learning Consortium

“The good news is the knowledge obtained from the WBLC workshop is an enduring asset because once people know how to do it, as long as they apply it, it continually pays dividends” says Jones.

Trainers are set up for success and there are clear business results – newly hired employees become proficient more quickly and experienced skilled workers spend less time training.

“Companies need qualified people as there are significant skills shortages in some sectors and firms need people to be up to speed and trained quickly,” adds Nagar.

The Technical Training Effectiveness Workshop can be a key element of the training and upskilling solution for your company.

WBLC Reduces CNC Machinist Training Time by 50% while Delivering the Same Results

Six-month training program reduced to three months

One of the bedrocks of Work-Based Learning Consortium’s (WBLC) learning and hiring programs has been its CNC Machinist programs, which typically have created proficient and certified CNC Machinists in a six-month period. You can imagine the surprise when WBLC said they could deliver the same results in only three months.

So far, with several cohorts of a newly created CNC Machinist (Level 1) Rapid Upskilling program completed, WBLC is delivering all within that three-month timeframe.

“When I think back about some of the first discussions with companies about building a CNC Machinist program, a common question was ‘how long do you think it will take trainees to complete your CNC Machinist program?’”, recalls Rod Jones, Managing Director of WBLC. “We said we could do it in six months and the industry reaction was skeptical. Industry executives told me it was taking them 12 to 18 months to get anybody anywhere near proficient on CNC Machines.”

“Industry executives told (us) it was taking them 12 to 18 months to get anybody anywhere near proficient on CNC Machines.” – Rod Jones, Managing Director of the Work Based Learning Consortium

But Jones knew he had an advantage, as he was going to approaching the training in a highly structured, competency-based way, with clearly defined learning outcomes and schedules.

Since those discussions, WBLC has partnered with more than 70 companies to train more than 700 employees for skilled manufacturing jobs with a 90+% success rate.

WBLC’s CNC Machinist upskilling program produces higher proficiency workers much faster than traditional on-the-job training.

Why Shorten the CNC Machinist Learning Program?

“We had noticed there were opportunities to be had by tightening the schedule and making some improvements after having worked with the six-month program for some time,” says Pavel Wegrzyn, a mentor/coach with WBLC, who also is a subject matter expert for the creation of this evolution in the Rapid Upskilling program.

Due to the realities of a production environment, there are times when all-hands-on-deck scenarios pop up to meet production requirements, impacting the trainee’s availability for training. This means the training program occasionally slips slightly longer than the three months elapsed time. WBCL recognizes these production realities and has been very flexible in accommodating their clients.

WBLC strives to keep intakes to roughly eight people per session, which is a size that maximizes learning effectiveness. If a company wants 15 to be run through the training, WBLC can scale up and add additional monitor coaches and split the group into two cohorts.

Benefits of Shortened Training

“I believe we have actually reduced the amount of active time the technical trainers spend training,” adds Jones. “Our corporate partners are happy with that as long as we get the desired results which is proving to be the case. That’s a tremendous business benefit for the companies we work alongside.”

“We have reduced the amount of active time the (employers) technical trainers spend training.” – Rod Jones, Managing Director of the Work Based Learning Consortium

Jones adds that WBLC isn’t creating journeyman persons in three months, but it is developing Level 1 CNC Machinists with the fundamental knowledge required to make standard parts following work orders effectively and safely, with limited supervision.

The CNC Machinist Raid Upskilling program was created to help companies to find more skilled CNC Machinists to meet growing business demands, taking on more business, or to replace retiring employees. It has been an ongoing challenge for the industry to find highly proficient CNC machinists.

WBLC works to recruit and assess applicants for CNC Machinist positions, who are hired by companies and then trained using WBLC’s blended learning program. Training consists of a mixture of e-learning modules and testing, weekly shop floor assignments, practical skills training by corporate trainers, as well as testing and certification of successful trainees.


Keys to Creating a Highly Effective e-Learning Program

When Work-Based Learning Consortium (WBLC) first started to build its e-learning program years ago, the purpose behind the initiative was to help companies to train their employees at the worksite and avoid the geographic limitations often associated with classroom training.

To give some context, part of the original CNC Machinist training at the time involved classroom and shop floor instruction in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). This worked well for some companies, but for companies outside of the GTA, it often meant that staff had to be bussed into Toronto for classroom training for several weeks at a time. It wasn’t the ideal situation.

Rod Jones, Managing Director of WBLC says they recognized that a different approach was required and efforts were made to create an e-learning component.

“We knew that the e-learning couldn’t be just a talking head (of) a classroom instructor.” – Rod Jones, Managing Director of the Work Based Learning Consortium

“We knew that the e-learning couldn’t be just a talking head,” says Jones. “It’s not videotaping a classroom instructor. It has to be interactive and engaging for the trainee. But the e-learning also has to be focused on the knowledge and skills that are required in order to perform the job well and successfully.”

Today, WBLC’s e-learning program is part of a comprehensive approach to training and upskilling, which includes interactive e-learning, e-instruction, train the technical trainer workshops, shop floor assignments, on-the-job training, technical language training, monitor coaching and last, but not least, certification of successful trainees.

“Imagine you’re the student, you’ll do some e-learning modules, meet weekly with an e-instructor via a video conferencing program, such as Zoom, and receive practical, hands-on assignments from a technical trainer that reinforces earlier e-learning,” explains Reema Duggal, a lead for the virtual learning initiatives with WBLC. “Mini quizzes help trainees to master each training module. Ultimately, after completing the training, the trainee is assessed by a mentor coach and, presuming they pass, they are certified for the position.”

WBLC’s Work-Based Learning programs consistently achieve success rates above 90%.

Choosing the Best Way to Present Information

“We are very focused on creating a high-end e-learning experience that is highly effective at passing along all of the knowledge and skills required to successfully complete the training,” – Reema Duggal, Virtual Learning Lead, Work-Based Learning Consortium

Duggal explains that e-learning builds on technical learning outcomes and technical knowledge elements that were initially defined before the learning programs are created. This involves gathering the knowledge and skills that are required for a successful performance on the job from industry experts, and subsequently translating that information into detailed, digestible units of information.

For example, the early portions of the CNC Machinist program involve teaching the trainees about the machines themselves. Parts of this particular module use images and text, animations, and video. The trainee moves slowly around the outside of a CNC machine and then into the inside, showing parts and learning terminology related to the machine. As the trainee progresses through the e-learning modules, they take periodic quizzes and can’t progress to the next stage until they’ve answered the quiz 100% correctly.

“The pace of the video when teaching the terminology of the CNC machine has been carefully set to ensure new machine operators can easily absorb and comprehend all of specific information they need to know,” Duggal explains. “They are quizzed as things move along. A quiz is typically two to five questions … simple questions … but they must achieve 100% on the quiz before moving to the next stage. The key is for them to know the material. We’re all about comprehension.”

Example of Animation from the WBLC Mold Maintenance Technician e-Learning Program

Some of the modules feature considerably more videos as they demonstrate more complex operations, instructions or tasks. For example, the trainee might be shown a static image of a task they’ll be required to complete, followed by a short video that vividly demonstrates how to complete the task. Also, the e-learning program teaches shop math and trade calculations, introduces to work documents, tool set-up sheets, the tools they’ll use, materials that they’ll machine with, shown the different cutting tools and operations, and then they’ll be shown how to mill a part as well as how to turn a part.

“With blended e-learning, we want trainees to learn the material, work on it out on the shop floor, pass the mini quizzes, and then move along to the next level in the training,” says Duggal, who describes blended learning as not just one thing, but many things that come together to reinforce the learning. “Throughout the training, we’re constantly trying to create a discussion and an interaction based on what they’ve learned. We’re trying to give them competency and expertise that will help them succeed.”

“After experiencing our training, people often comment that what we have created is very comprehensive” Duggal adds.

Tailoring to Each Industry

In addition to developing content, WBLC also adapts the style of the training to reflect the industry being trained. For example, the e-learning created for CNC Machinists has a very different tone from the material created for the Graphics Installer Technician in the sign industry.

“With the graphic installer technician program, our approach is a little less industrial and a little more artsy,” explains Duggal. “We’ve delivered a different tone because that reflects how the people carry themselves and interact with one another. Whereas, the CNC Machinists tend to be more structured. Each industry has a different kind of energy and we want that reflected in our training.”

Beyond tone, the sequence in which elements are taught also can vary significantly. For CNC Machinists, the section about materials is introduced in the fifth module, but for the Graphics Installation Technician, the materials section is the second module because it is so crucial that trainees understand vinyl and what surface it can be installed on. Conversely, with CNC Machinists, they are taught about the machines and the parts first, then math and measurement, before turning the trainee’s attention to materials (e.g., milling steel).

“The focus is always on the trainee and what content will work best for them,” Duggal adds. “While it’s subtle, it can really make an important impact.”

Determining the Best e-Learning Approach

“We have an experimental mindset when it comes to developing e-learning and training programs,” says Duggal. “Today, animation may be the most effective way to teach something, but tomorrow some kind of AI transformation may be the best method. We’re always looking for new and effective ways to engage the audience. It’s about opening your eyes and saying ‘what’s the art of the possible’.”

As an example, learning and understanding technical language is one thing, but knowing how to weave it into general conversation on the shop floor is something else. For some of the trainees, it is further complicated by the fact that English may not be their first language. So WBLC decided to turn to artificial intelligence and create short simulations where trainees can practice weaving the terms into conversation.

Working with British Columbia-based artificial intelligence (AI) conversation company, Virtro Technology, WBLC created simulations to teach trainees how to integrate approximately 70 technical terms into regular conversations with managers and co-workers. During the AI simulations, trainees can practice and receive instant feedback. It’s proven to be remarkably successful.

“At the end of the day, what we’re doing is good teaching, good story telling and encouraging good interactions. It’s a fascinating and rewarding part of our industry, and what we do can really make a difference in the everyday lives of our clients,” says Duggal.

Beyond Profit: How Our Non-Profit eLearning Company Is Revolutionizing Upskilling

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!