There’s no doubt that the last two years have been hard for the trades industry. With lockdowns and remote working and learning enforced and later encouraged, industries that rely on practical work and teaching that simply cannot be done remotely have taken a hit.
Trades training has been particularly difficult with so much of the learning process relying on in-person teaching and practical assignments. So, the industry has had to adapt to virtual learning. This can be challenging within the trades industry, to provide e-learning that delivers the right information and shows trainees how to work without them being able to practice themselves.
We already know the benefits technology can have in supporting the running of trade businesses, from accounting and invoicing software to quoting for work, etc. But, in this article, we will look at what the future holds for trades training, and how the industry can embrace technology in the training of new tradespeople.
Why Does it Matter?
The demand for technicians and trade workers has increased by 60%, yet, according to research from the Mitchell Institute at Victoria University, the number of new apprenticeships and traineeships is expected to decline by 30% within two years.
That means the industry will have about 130,000 fewer apprentices and trainees. This could be detrimental to the next generation, and to the current economy. Especially as chief executive of the Australian Industry Group, Innes Willox, notes that the vocational education and training (VET) system “already struggles to deliver the skills that the economy needs.”
So, how can the industry tackle the decline in apprentices and trainees and encourage more to train? By making training more accessible, through the introduction of technology and e-learning, and prioritizing trainees and established tradespeople to improve their advanced digital technology skills and specialisms. This begins with adapting the way training is conducted and follows right through to continued career development courses.
Formerly, practically all trades training was done in person, at colleges, through apprenticeships, or on-the-job learning. Now, we are seeing much more of a hybrid approach to teaching. Although this was initially a reaction to the pandemic, going forward it could be beneficial to embrace a more flexible teaching and learning style that combines in-real-life training or assessments with virtual reality (VR) and/or augmented reality (AR).
Now we know that sounds a little bit sci-fi and futuristic. But, VR and AR in teaching is really increasing. Studies have shown that learning through experience increases learning quality and improves retention by up to 75%.
So, while there are many health and safety risks associated with on-site learning, not the least COVID concerns, it is important that training tradespeople can experience their learning as physically as possible.
That’s where VR and AR can come in. Trainees can make mistakes in virtual reality that, if made in real-world environments, could create high-risk situations with zero risk involved. This is great for early-stage trainees who may not yet be ready for on-site action but need a level of simulated reality to get their head around a new skill.
Career Development Training
Other ways that embracing online and remote learning can help is for career development. While it’s important for tradespeople to continue their learning throughout their careers, sometimes it is impractical to go to physical courses or events.
As some people are self-employed, taking a day out of paid work to go to development training may not be possible. The increase in online e-learning could help professionals to keep up-to-date with trades best practices at a time that suits them and from home.
These courses are still accredited and will help to stay in the know but will mean they are much easier to complete and attend. It may even encourage more in the industry to further their knowledge, as e-learning can be more accessible.
Business training that removes outdated practices by using time-saving technology in areas such as finance and scheduling could free up more time for training, working, or growing a business. Building a bank of digital and practical skills that can help you adapt, move forward, and stand out in the industry will help to be resilient in business.
We are at a pivotal time to revolutionize the trade industry. From encouraging more people to take up apprenticeships and training to updating digital skills and modernizing business with technology, the future of the trade industry means embracing flexibility.
The future of training doesn’t just mean looking at ways to get more people into the industry. Encouraging ongoing training, whether it’s practical, virtual, hybrid, or digital skills training, will help to create a resilient workforce that can withstand future changes and adapt to unforeseen circumstances.
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