Close Gaps in Construction Worker Skills with Mobile Training Technology

With mobile-first training technology in its tool belt, the construction industry can address its pressing talent shortage and begin developing the next generation of skilled craft professionals needed to achieve safe worksites, quality projects and increase profitability.
April 24, 2017

It’s no secret that a lack of skilled workers is one of the most pressing challenges facing today’s construction business owners, executives and managers as they plan for the future.

However, with mobile-first training technology in its tool belt, the construction industry can address its pressing talent shortage and begin developing the next generation of skilled craft professionals needed to achieve safe jobsites, quality projects and increased profitability.

The construction industry, more than any other, demonstrates the increasing global skills gap, which has risen steadily since 2009 to 40 percent of employers globally saying they are having difficulty filling positions, according to the 2016/17 Talent Shortage Survey by ManpowerGroup. For the fifth consecutive year, skilled trades positions – electricians, carpenters, welders, bricklayers, plasterers, plumbers, masons and more – were the hardest to find globally.

With the United States at full employment (below five percent unemployment as of March 2017), quality, skilled workers are in high demand across the board. The U.S. skills gap leaves 600,000 skilled positions unfilled, and low-skilled unemployed or underemployed cannot currently fill them. That is a problem all businesses will need to solve if they want to see profits rise.

Also, in unpredictable environments such as a construction job site, automation is expected to enable safer and more enhanced collaboration, says a recent McKinsey & Company study on jobs that will be replaced by machines. But automation and machine learning also will require worker re-training.

Train workers where they are: on their mobile phones

To meet this challenge, the construction industry needs to leverage today’s technology to train workers for current vacant roles while also upskilling the existing workforce for future jobs. One solution is readily available: leveraging mobile, social and gamification technology in workforce training.

Smartphone ownership and internet usage continues to climb globally across all income spectrums, and workers of all skills and backgrounds check their phones an estimated five to 10 times per hour. They do this to keep up on their family and social lives and engage in content. In fact, almost everything workers do these days is facilitated by their phones, even while on the job. What if some of that screen time was spent with their employer’s training content?

The younger generation of workers has an expectation that their information needs will be met through mobile technology, and supporting them with mobile learning helps them feel they are growing in their jobs, which reduces turnover. These workers, raised on daily doses of technology, also are conditioned to respond to information when it is broken down into bite-sized pieces through text, video and audio. They also learn through social feedback with peers and managers and gamification strategies that incentivize action and demonstrate goal attainment.

With mobile technology, construction businesses can support their training processes and transform their training materials into interactive, useful information that prepares workers for anything from safety protocols to new trade skills.

Mobile training benefits

Workforce training delivered by mobile software is worth leaning in to, and here’s why: most training fails because it lacks reinforcement and continuous learning. The need for lifelong learning and synchronous, continuous training is growing, and mobile technology provides the perfect platform for this type of engagement.

Effective delivery of mobile learning can:

  • improve vocational skills, as well as so-called “soft skills” in judgement, problem solving, interpersonal relations and critical thinking;
  • deliver training continuously, when it’s convenient for the worker, instead of in scheduled programs;
  • replace physical training centers and programs, reducing costs;
  • transfer and sustain institutional knowledge by breaking down training content into bite-sized information workers can digest on the go;
  • deepen learning by going beyond one-way learning (videos that talk at employees) to engage employees through collaboration and social media connection;
  • reach employees in any location, saving training costs;
  • repurpose skill sets for new roles in the workplace to address the impact of automation; and
  • provide important data collection for employers to learn what’s working and what’s not in their training.

The worker shortage in the construction industry is a significant problem that can benefit from partnerships between technology providers and construction leaders, apprenticeship programs, workforce development and safety programs and industry trade associations. It is also an opportunity for the industry to demonstrate the power of mobile technology tools to develop the workforce of the future and do its part to close the global skills gap.

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