Blue-collar worker welds in a factory.

Blue-collar and white-collar workers traditionally refer to distinct job categories. White-collar workers, linked to office roles, handle administrative and managerial duties. The term “white-collar” derives from the white-collared shirts worn in such settings. In contrast, blue-collar workers engage in manual labor or trade jobs, recognized by their blue attire, which hides dirt and grease from their physically demanding tasks. These distinctions have historically defined employment sectors.

While these worker categories have different job roles, both benefit from employee training. White-collar training generally encompasses a wide range of topics, whereas blue-collar workers often receive specialized training directly related to their job responsibilities. However, it’s imperative to go beyond hard skills when training blue-collar workers.

Let’s outline the benefits of a diverse training program for blue-collar workers.

Skill Enhancement: While blue-collar workers are typically skilled in their specific trades, ongoing training helps them stay up to date with the latest techniques, technologies, and best practices in their field. This continuous skill enhancement is essential to maintain a competitive edge in the job market.

Safety: Many blue-collar jobs involve physical work and potential hazards. Training programs can emphasize safety protocols, reducing workplace accidents and ensuring the well-being of employees.

Productivity: Well-trained blue-collar workers are often more productive. Training helps them become more efficient, resulting in higher-quality work and increased output.

Adaptability: In today’s rapidly changing work environment, adaptability is crucial. Blue-collar workers who receive training are better prepared to adapt to new tools, technologies, and processes, ensuring they remain relevant in evolving industries.

Soft Skills: Beyond technical skills, training can focus on soft skills such as communication, teamwork, and problem-solving. These skills are valuable in any job and can enhance the overall effectiveness of blue-collar workers.

Career Progression: Providing training and opportunities for skill development can open doors for career advancement within blue-collar fields. It can also lead to supervisory or management roles, furthering the professional growth of these workers.

Now that we understand how training benefits employees, let’s discuss why training blue-collar workers should be a priority for organizations through the lens of the current state of work.

Job Shortage

The pressure to prioritize college degrees over trade careers has created a growing shortage of skilled blue-collar workers in the United States. Currently, there are 9.6 million unfilled jobs, and projections suggest that by 2030, 2.1 million manufacturing jobs could go unfilled.

This shortage poses a significant challenge for both well-established and newly established manufacturing organizations. The consequences of this shortage are already being felt, with a 2022 report by Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute revealing that nearly 45% of manufacturing executives surveyed had to decline business opportunities due to a lack of available workers.

Addressing these challenges is critical, and one key solution lies in providing skill-building opportunities for blue-collar workers. As the Baby Boomer and Gen X workers retire, Millennials and Gen Z employees are becoming dominant in the workforce. What sets these newer generations apart is their desire for employer-provided training when they seek employment. For organizations aiming to remain competitive in today’s hiring market, offering skill-building opportunities will be essential to attract and retain younger workers.

Watch our on-demand webinar to learn more about attracting and retaining blue-collar employees.

Advances in Technology

In an era where artificial intelligence and robotics are becoming more prevalent, the human element remains essential in various aspects of the workforce. Blue-collar employees, with their hands-on skills and adaptability, can play a crucial role in filling the gaps left by automation. Training blue-collar workers in skills like troubleshooting and repairing machinery is imperative in this evolving landscape.

The changing nature of work necessitates new training and education strategies. The skills required by employees are rapidly evolving, making it challenging for the workforce to keep up. Employers are seeking training programs that align with the demands of these new workspaces.

Moreover, both leaders and employees will continue to require the ability to engage in problem-solving exercises, employ deductive and complex reasoning, demonstrate emotional intelligence, and foster creativity and innovation. These skills are indispensable in navigating the modern work environment. A contemporary and engaging content library, with resources on key skills, can play a pivotal role in developing and honing these competencies.

Employee Retention

With positions being hard to fill, especially blue-collar positions, it becomes imperative to retain your current employees. When jobs become too difficult, employees could become disengaged and less productive, or if they feel like their employers don’t care to develop them, they could begin to look for work elsewhere.  

Younger workers want training from their employers and actively seek that out when searching for jobs. Offering leadership and management training can provide a path to growth within an organization. This gives employees a goal to strive for and helps keep them engaged.

For example, look at BizLibrary client Watco Companies, a transportation company. They were struggling with high employee turnover. They launched their new training program, Watco U, and within the first year, saw a 7% decrease in employee turnover – saving them more than $3 million.

To see how employee turnover can affect your organization and find solutions to these issues, check out our infographic “Knock Out Employee Turnover.”

Now that you know what benefits training can provide to the organization, let’s look at the kinds of training you can provide to your workforce.

Types of Training in the Blue-Collar Sector

There are a wide range of methods you can use when training your workers that depend on their experience, role, and level. These types of trainings can be employed to enhance the skills and knowledge of your workforce:

For New Employees:

  1. Customized Training: Begin by conducting interviews with new hires to understand their specific training needs and interests. This allows you to create a training plan tailored to their preferences, which can instill a sense of growth and engagement with the company from the start.
  2. Onboarding through Learning Platforms: Use your learning platform to provide onboarding training to new employees. This helps them become familiar with the technology and available content. It also establishes a culture of continuous learning right from the beginning, which can remain with them as they progress in the company.
  3. Job Shadowing: Implement job shadowing for new employees. This allows them to observe experienced workers in action, ask questions, and gain a better understanding of their role by witnessing real-time work processes.
  4. Mentorship Program: Establish a mentorship program to provide guidance and support to new hires. Mentors can offer advice, share company insights, and provide valuable assistance to newcomers.

For Seasoned Employees:

  1. On-the-Job Training: This occurs daily in the workplace as employees gain experience and learn specific skills relevant to their roles. It’s a form of learning that takes place as part of their regular job duties but can be enhanced through intentional check-ins such as demonstrations, quizzes, or activities.
  2. Managerial Coaching: Train your managers to act as coaches for their teams. This involves providing continuous feedback, boosting morale, planning team-building exercises, and motivating team members to foster ongoing professional development.

For All Employees:

  1. Blended Learning: A blended learning program combines classroom and online learning to provide a well-rounded training experience. Blended learning is great for blue-collar workers by offering a balance of tangible practice with new learning concepts. It can also show employees where they can implement new processes and techniques that will help them in their roles.
  2. Classroom Training: This method is ideal for disseminating information to a larger group simultaneously. For instance, safety demonstrations can be conducted in a classroom setting to educate employees about equipment risks without the need for hands-on experience.
  3. Interactive Group Activities: Within classroom training sessions, incorporate interactive group activities. These activities can include watching videos and then completing related tasks. This approach promotes teamwork, collaboration, decision-making, and problem-solving skills.
  4. Online Learning: Online learning is suitable for all employees as it delivers information in an accessible and manageable format, without overwhelming learners. Microlearning lessons, which are brief and focused, are an effective way to provide information in small, digestible chunks that take no more than 10 minutes, making them easy to fit into the workflow.

By employing these diverse training methods, you can create a comprehensive training program that caters to the needs of both new and experienced blue-collar workers, ensuring that they acquire the skills and knowledge necessary for success in their roles.

Check out our blog on how to close skill gaps in a blue-collar workforce.

Why You Should be Using Microlearning to Train Blue-Collar Workers

In industries like manufacturing and services, where time is at a premium, finding opportunities for lengthy training can be a challenge. Employees may be on-site, assisting clients, or working on a factory floor where productivity is paramount. In such situations, microlearning offers a valuable solution.

Microlearning involves breaking down training content into bite-sized, easily digestible sections that employees can access on their schedules and any device. This approach allows them to fit training into their busy workdays without major disruptions.

If you’re worried about employees forgetting information as time goes on, don’t be. With The BizLibrary Collection, your employees can benefit from content boosters, which allow for follow-up questions to boost learning retention over time.

In today’s digital age, attention spans are continually shrinking as we are bombarded with new stimuli vying for our focus. It’s crucial to not only capture someone’s attention but also to sustain it. Microlearning excels in this regard by enabling a dynamic approach to delivering information. It combines concise video content with interactive elements such as surveys, polls, quizzes, and questions to keep learners engaged and genuinely interested in the topic at hand.

This interactive and engaging approach enhances the learning experience and promotes better knowledge retention.

Microlearning is particularly well-suited for a multi-generational workforce. Here’s why:

  • Technology Familiarity: In an era where technology is pervasive, employees of all generations are likely accustomed to using smartphones or tablets. This familiarity with mobile devices makes accessing microlearning training straightforward and user-friendly.
  • Simplicity and Directness: Microlearning is designed to be concise, direct, and easily digestible. It offers a no-nonsense approach to delivering information, making it accessible and engaging for employees of all ages.
  • Structured Learning: Microlearning provides a structured and organized way to deliver training content. Learners can access specific modules or lessons when needed, creating a flexible and adaptable learning experience that aligns with the preferences of employees from different generations.

By leveraging microlearning, organizations can bridge generational gaps in training and ensure that employees of all ages can access and benefit from training programs in a way that suits their individual learning styles and preferences.

Looking to upskill maintenance professionals at your organization? Check out these 7 Important Skills for Modern Maintenance Professionals.

Training Topics for the Blue-Collar Worker

Training in the workplace goes beyond technical skills needed for job tasks; it’s also about fostering personal growth and learning for employees, which can provide a significant competitive advantage in terms of employee retention. For blue-collar workers, safety and compliance training are critical due to the potential costs associated with fines and the risks of injury or worse. However, beyond compliance, soft skills training is equally valuable and can help attract and retain employees.

Here are some essential soft skills:

  • Setting Goals: Providing training in goal setting can give employees a sense of purpose and motivation. Setting and achieving goals can lead to increased job satisfaction and personal fulfillment.
  • Teamwork and Collaboration: Effective teamwork is essential in any industry. Training in this area helps employees understand the importance of their roles within the team and fosters a positive work environment. It also demonstrates the consequences of not contributing to the team’s success.
  • Problem Solving: Challenges are inevitable in the workplace. Employees should be confident in their ability to handle unexpected issues effectively. Problem-solving training equips them with the skills to address challenges as they arise.

Additionally, training managers and supervisors are essential for success in leadership roles. Some key skills for managers and supervisors include:

  • Conflict Management and Resolution: Conflicts are a part of the workplace. Managers and supervisors should be trained in handling various types of conflicts and employing effective resolution tactics to maintain a harmonious work environment.
  • Emotional Intelligence: Training in emotional intelligence enhances a manager’s ability to understand their own emotional responses and manage them effectively. This skill is invaluable for addressing employee issues with empathy and concern.

Modern learning solutions make training accessible and relevant for industrial employees, fitting seamlessly into the workflow. To be effective, training should be accessible, relevant, engaging, and provided at the right time when employees need it.

We’d love to talk to you about how we can help your organization manage training content for your blue-collar workforce – learn more about our workplace training solutions here.