Shining a Spotlight on Skilled Trades Training
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2020, 59% of the available U.S. workforce was 19-39 years old. The rise of the digital generation, coupled with a lack of skilled trades specialists to meet demand, has shone a spotlight on skilled trades training and their learning paths to being job ready.
Not only do tech-savvy skilled trades prospects in HVAC, plumbing, facilities maintenance and electrical expect an immersive digital learning experience that is fun and engaging, but there is also a pressing need to get people into the workforce as soon as possible to meet the skills gap.
In February 2021, PeopleReady, who conducted an analysis of hundreds of thousands of U.S. skilled trades jobs, found a 24% month-on-month increase in plumber apprentice job postings and a 15% increase in electrician postings.
Technology-based learning innovations, such as 3D simulations, virtual reality (VR) and gamification, are providing an immersive learning experience and enabling the roll out of training quickly and remotely — particularly important in the post-COVID-19 world.
There are significant learning benefits to immersive experiences when it comes to information retention, motivation and continuous, uninterrupted learning. Gamification developments, such as point scoring, competitions and leaderboards are playing a key role in supporting learner engagement, making training fun and memorable, as well as encouraging real-life problem solving.
Research backs up the effectiveness of gaming and VR, concluding there is greater retention of clinical knowledge. When gaming was adopted to train nursing administrators, a PWC report found that learners using VR are 3.75 times more emotionally connected and 1.5 times more focused than classroom learners.
Keeping the Human Dimension
Although there are benefits of technology-led learning, it leaves out the human aspect.
When people put on a VR headset or start the latest game, they may feel detachment, cognitive overload or a lack of one-to-one human interaction. It doesn’t necessarily need to be that way. It’s possible it can lead to a greater sense of community.
Let me tell you about our experience at Success Academy and how we have achieved that important balance — the focus on the human emotional connection alongside the latest in technology-led learning. This is what our partner Interplay Learning calls Comersive Learning.
Success Academy provides communication, sales, management, leadership, technical and customer service training to three leading home service franchises — One Hour Heating & Air Conditioning, Mister Sparky Electric and Benjamin Franklin Plumbing. We deliver training to more than 350 locations, preparing 4,000 employees for the workforce. You can learn more about Success Academy and our training offerings here.
While our technical training (including in-person, textbook and computer-based) was high quality and very successful in transforming learners’ technical knowledge, there were time, travel and budget constraints when it came to hands-on training. We wanted to enhance the learning experience, reach more people who couldn’t necessarily attend in-person training, and embrace the latest learning technologies for greater retention and engagement.
In particular, we wanted to focus on the diagnosis side of learning and the informal interactions. Focusing on the diagnosis side would enhance our techs’ knowledge on a topic that directly impacts our business’ key performance indicators. The informal interaction, like peer-to-peer learning and personalized feedback, focused on the understanding and retention that is so important to learners and successful training programs. Could we use technology to facilitate this while not compromising on the human element?
Comersive Learning — Partnering with Interplay
With these issues in mind, we partnered with Interplay Learning for the training and technology application piece we had been searching for. Interplay brought their VR-enabled and gamification technologies that, alongside our traditional training, provided the best of both the human and technology worlds — Comersive Learning.
Comersive Learning combines an immersive experience — through VR, gamification and virtual training — with social learning methods, one-on-one coaching and a learning community that can foster a powerful feeling of collaboration. All this takes place through a single learning platform in a safe, risk-free environment with immediate feedback and improved learner confidence.
Interplay has introduced gamification into our training by having techs diagnose faults, like playing a video game, and added competition on things like who can diagnose the issue first.
This increased interaction with other learners and instructors, while at the same time leveraged our core and established training modules — that’s what Comersive Learning is all about. At all stages other learners or instructors can provide automatic feedback, building on each other’s ideas just as they would do in the classroom.
These informal conversations within a fun and engaged environment, and the validation and assessment of learning alongside VR and gamification, have a positive impact on knowledge retention and application.
The bottom line for Success Academy has been field-like training directly to each franchise location with the facilitation of regular group-based VR training sessions, gamification and increased workforce exposure to diagnosing and troubleshooting practices. The greater collaboration and real-time feedback has also led to a safe working environment and improved employee confidence and performance in the field.
Rozie Ricca, Operations Coordinator at One Hour Heating & Air Conditioning said, “Our technicians can open a discussion about the situation where they are working and get input on the best way to tackle certain issues. They can try without feeling failure.” Other benefits include the ability for employees to access self-paced and continually updated training from home, and give managers the ability to assign and track courses.
Today, 15% of the three brand’s franchise locations have adopted VR and gamification training with positive results already being seen with reduced call-backs and increased average tickets.
“For ages we have been trapped trying to shove textbook literature onto people who need hands-on experience to excel. We can now put down textbooks and teach our technicians valuable information in a way they can understand and stay engaged,” said Ricca.