Employee Development

The Importance of Prioritizing Training for Blue-Collar Workers

Blue-collar worker wears protective gear while working on a project.

There has often been a distinct divide between blue- and white-collar workers. Those in white-collar roles are typically in an office environment performing administrative and managerial duties. The term comes from the white collared shirts many people often wore in these roles. Those performing blue-collar jobs often wore blue clothing to conceal dirt and grease and worked mainly in trade or manual labor jobs.

There are elements of employee training that apply to all employees, regardless of the color of their collar or the work they’re doing.

Why You Should Focus on Training Blue-Collar Workers

While blue-collar workers are often skilled in their specific trades, it’s important to reinforce on-the-job skills as well as soft skills.

Job Shortage

With the current pressure to pursue college degrees over trades, there are fewer and fewer people to fill these jobs, so there’s a job shortage – 7.6 million unfilled jobs, but only 6.5 million people looking for work in 2019.

A 2018 report by Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute projected that between 2018 and 2028, there could be as many as 2.4 million unfilled manufacturing jobs.

Millennials and Gen Z employees are looking for employer-provided training when they search for jobs. As Boomer and Gen X employees begin to retire, it will become imperative to offer this benefit to draw in younger workers.

Advances in Technology

Where the human element is lost in artificial intelligence and robotics, blue-collar employees will be there to fill the gaps. It’ll be important to train employees on skills like troubleshooting and repairing machinery.

This new world of labor naturally leads to new training and education needs. The types of skills that employees need to possess are rapidly evolving, and it seems increasingly difficult for the workforce to keep pace. Employers are looking at training that aligns with job requirements in these new workspaces.

But more than that, both leaders and employees will always need to be able to complete exercises in problem solving, be able to use deductive and complex reasoning, showcase emotional intelligence, and be creative and innovative. Our modern and engaging content library has videos on these topics and more. Check out the video preview for this lesson on problem solving!

Employee Retention

With positions being hard to fill, it becomes imperative to retain your current employees, and 70% of employees report that they don’t have mastery of the skills needed to do their jobs. 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, let’s look at the kinds of training you can provide to your workforce.

Types of Training in the Blue-Collar Sector

There are organizations that invest minimally in training their blue-collar workers, since they are often learning through hands-on experience. But there are a wide range of methods you can use when training your workers.

For New Employees

Begin by conducting interviews with your new hires asking them what kind of training they would like to receive. This can help you create a training plan specific to their interests and plant the seed of growth with the company. Conduct training through your learning platform during onboarding to help new hires get acquainted with the technology and the content that is available to them. This builds a culture of learning from the beginning that sticks with them as they move through the company.

Job shadowing is also a great way to train new employees. They can see how the job is done and ask questions along the way to better understand their role.

Establishing a mentorship program can be a great asset to new hires as well. Mentors can focus on giving advice, offering company insights, and provide support.

For Seasoned Employees

On-the-job training is what happens daily at work. As workers learn their role, they see how everything operates in real-time and learn applicable skills that are specific to your company.

Train your managers to act as coaches for their employees by providing continuous feedback, boosting morale, planning team building exercises, and motivating team members.

For All Employees

A blended learning program utilizes classroom learning in conjunction with online learning.

Classroom training is a great way to disseminate information to a large group at once. Safety demonstrations are a perfect example of what can be discussed in the classroom, as they offer information on the dangers of equipment without having to have a hands-on experience.

Within classroom training sessions, everyone can participate in an interactive group activity. This could include watching a video then completing an activity. This can help promote teamwork, collaboration, decision making, and problem solving.

Online learning is perfect for all workers as it delivers information in an accessible, manageable way without overwhelming learners. Microlearning lessons allow for information to be disseminated in small chunks that take no more than 10 minutes, so it’s easy to fit into the flow of work.

Benefits of Microlearning for Blue-Collar Workers

It’s hard to find time to step away for lengthy training when working in manufacturing and service industries. Whether workers are on site, helping clients, or on a factory floor, time is money. Utilizing microlearning lessons within a platform that delivers this type of skill-based learning in bite-sized sections on any device allows employees to access training on their schedule. 

With microlearning, content is broken down into chunks our brains can handle. 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.

These short videos also help keep learners engaged. In this digital age, attention spans are ever dwindling as new things are constantly vying for our attention. It’s important to grab someone’s attention and hold onto it, and microlearning allows you to mix the delivery of information with surveys, polls, quizzes, and questions to keep the learner engaged and interested in the topic at hand.  

Microlearning is great for the multi-generational workforce. While teaching employees a new system or software can come with some difficulties, it’s likely everyone uses a smart phone or tablet, and that makes accessing training simple, direct, and easily structured.

Training Topics for the Blue-Collar Worker

Training can cover more than just the technical skills needed to complete tasks within an employee’s role. It’s important to provide a way for personal growth and learning for employees – this kind of development gives you a huge competitive advantage when it comes to employee retention!

Perhaps the two most crucial issues blue-collar employees need to be trained on are safety and compliance. The costs associated with fines from local and federal regulations and the potential for risk of injury or death, requires blue-collar workers to be up to date on these critical issues.

However, beyond compliance requirements, soft skills training can help attract and retain employees. Soft skills that you can train employees on include:

  • Setting goals – Setting goals gives employees something to strive for and a reason to be invested in their work and personal lives.
  • Teamwork and collaboration – Working together is essential no matter what industry. When everyone understands why each role is important to the overall picture, you can create a positive work environment. You can also showcase what happens if someone isn’t carrying their weight.
  • Problem solving – Challenges arise and there’s no way to predict when or where they will occur. Employees should feel confident in their ability to respond effectively to any challenges that arise at work.

It’s also important to train managers and supervisors on skills they need to succeed in their roles.

  • Conflict management and resolution – Conflicts are sure to happen and they will be resolved more smoothly if supervisors know how to handle different types of conflicts and various resolution tactics.
  • Emotional intelligence – When someone learns to be more aware of their own emotional responses and how to manage them, it helps them to better understand how to interact with others in positive ways. This can help supervisors address employee issues with care and concern.

Modern learning solutions mean training can easily fit into the flow of work for industrial employees – all you need is accessibility, relevancy and engagement, and time of need.

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 industrial training solutions here.

Training & Development Industry Researcher | Angie researches and writes about the impacts of employee learning on organizations and individuals. She looks at L&D and HR issues and industry trends and helps them understand how to create better training programs that grow their employees and their business.