Fueling Growth Through Workforce Development
As economic forecasts project an upturn in major economies around the world, growth in industries including construction, mining and forestry will quickly follow. As new projects are initiated and previously halted projects are reactivated, these industries are faced with the reality of challenges that, if not properly addressed, have the potential to threaten recovery.
What are some of these key challenges? Worker shortage and worker quality.
…the reality is that there aren’t enough experienced operators to meet the demand.
The need for skilled heavy equipment operators in the construction, mining and forestry industries is a priority. But the reality is that there aren’t enough experienced operators to meet the demand.
This report discusses the scope and impact of the workforce shortage and proposes a solution to fill the talent pipeline with qualified operators in an efficient, cost-effective way.
A Lack of Qualified Operators Impacts Industry Growth Potential
With projected spending on construction projects forecasted to be in the billions in the upcoming years, the number of jobs for heavy equipment operators is expected to grow. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics anticipates growth of up to 23% by 2022.
Similarly, growth scenarios in the mining industry project the need for approximately 50,000 additional workers in the U.S. by 2019, according to data from the Energy Information Administration (EIA), and more than 100,000 workers in Canada over the next decade, according to the Canadian Mining Labour Market Outlook for 2016. Australia is also experiencing mining labor shortages, indicating that this is an issue globally.
While growth is fueling the need for additional labor in the industries, attrition rates due to a retiring workforce are creating a need to replace the existing workforce. The construction industry in the U.K. is highly populated by a workforce ranging from 45 to 59 years old. It is anticipated that by 2029, more than half the current U.S. mining workforce – approximately 221,000 workers – will retire. Federal labor figures also show that the logging workforce is aging, creating a need to replace workers in order to maintain the sustainability of the forestry industry.
Companies are already feeling the pressures of these numbers. Results from a report conducted by the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) titled The Challenges Facing a Growing Industry: The 2016 Construction Hiring and Business Outlook, indicate that more than half (52%) of companies surveyed are concerned about worker shortages. Worker quality was cited by 45% of companies as their biggest concern.
In their 2015 U.S. Talent Shortage Survey, ManpowerGroup, a human resources consulting firm, concluded that “talent shortages worldwide continue to be driven by a lack of available applicants and a lack of technical competencies among those who are available.” Across all 42 countries and territories surveyed, employers reported that skilled trades positions – including heavy equipment operators – are the hardest to fill. This is the fourth consecutive year these jobs have ranked in the top position.
…the inability to find and retain technically skilled workers could cost the industry approximately $2.4 billion each year.
The workforce shortage could be detrimental to businesses. If companies cannot adequately meet their employment needs, one in four will be unable to bid more work and one in three will experience slow growth, according to a survey of the Construction Personnel Executives Group. The Associated Equipment Distributors (AED), an international trade association representing the heavy equipment distribution industry, also conducted an independent survey concluding that the inability to find and retain technically skilled workers could cost the industry approximately $2.4 billion each year. While these numbers are indicators for construction, other industries are experiencing similar results. This solidifies that the development of a robust talent pipeline is critical to business growth and financial success.
An Efficient, Cost-Effective, Technology-Enabled Solution Builds a Robust Talent Pipeline
Industries need a solution that will ensure a skilled supply of workers, both now and in the future. However, a significant number of companies and training organizations are not actively pursuing strategies to address the talent shortages.
…a significant number of companies and training organizations are not actively pursuing strategies to address the talent shortages.
Skill building – whether in a developing workforce or within a company’s current ranks – is key to maintaining forward momentum and to meet the growing need for skilled workers in the construction, mining and forestry industries. However organizations are already under constant pressure to increase efficiencies and decrease costs.
Enter simulator training.
For heavy equipment operators, simulators combine technology and operator instruction with rich graphics and realistic controls to help operators feel like they are in the actual machine. This allows them to become familiar with and memorize the machine’s essential operating techniques and makes a seamless transition from simulator to machine.
Virtual interactive environments introduce new operators to some of the working conditions that they will encounter, allowing them to perform exercises and make mistakes without harm to themselves, others or the jobsite. As new operators enter the workforce, the use of simulators helps them gain knowledge and confidence.
And simulator training produces results.
Companies that adopt simulator training as part of their learning plan find that operators gain skills faster than through traditional methods of training, as is evident by results from a six-week study conducted at a training facility using multiple Cat® Simulator Systems. During the study, operators training on simulators needed less time to match the same skill set or competency of operators training just on the machines. In fact, operators training on the simulators were able to master the controls and move on to specific exercises 30-60 minutes (on average) sooner than operators strictly training on the actual machines.
Use of simulators also resulted in a reduction of overall total machine training time by an average of 41%.
Use of simulators also resulted in a reduction of overall total machine training time by an average of 41%. During a five-day work week, that means operators could potentially be ready to work up to two days sooner, meaning a decrease in fuel costs and an increase in production as machines are more readily available for work on the jobsite. Even one hour of saved fuel can add up to $35 per operator. Given the hiring outlook over the next decade, those numbers will quickly add up.
Companies and training facilities that have already embraced the use of simulators as a part of their training program are also reaping the benefits.
At Aecon Mining in Alberta, Canada, Cat Simulators have played a large part in making the workforce safer and more productive. In addition to giving operators a base understanding of the equipment, simulators are used to assess operators’ skill levels and perfect the execution of applications that are needed on client sites.
The Arizona Department of Transportation cites cost savings as a key benefit of a simulator solution. As operators learn efficient operations, wear on costly components – like tires – is minimized. Similarly, fuel costs are lower as machines are not used for training and, when used, are operated more efficiently.
For schools that offer heavy equipment training programs, like Tri-Rivers Career Center in Marion, Ohio, incorporating Cat Simulators ensures that companies can be comfortable hiring graduates as students are already familiar with controls and key machine operations. They are able to gain skills in the operation of machinery that was previously unavailable.
Simulators are also a means to attract a younger generation into the industries that employ heavy equipment operators. As the Northwestern Alaska Career and Technical Institute (NACTEC) has discovered, the interface appeals to 21st century learners and helps generate interest in both operator training programs and careers in the industries that they employ. In fact, NACTEC has seen an increase in enrollment of 66% since simulators have been incorporated into the program.
The need for highly-skilled heavy equipment operators is both immediate and long term. Simulators help companies, schools and training facilities leverage technology that can train operators and get them on the jobsite quicker. The cost-effective solution results in competent and proficient operators and produces sustainable results.
Simulators help companies, schools and training facilities leverage technology that can train operators and get them on the jobsite quicker.
The challenge of developing and maintaining a qualified workforce is not one that will soon go away. Organizations that focus on workforce development solutions will maintain a competitive advantage. By proactively addressing the challenge, organizations are ready to respond. When demand increases, workers are prepared. In addition to building the necessary skills to meet the growing workforce needs in industries including construction, mining and forestry, simulator training offers additional benefits to companies and schools/training facilities that position them to respond to industry growth.
The Benefits of Simulator Training
- Assess skills before hiring
- Cross train current operators
- Keep machines in production
- Increase safety practices
For schools or training facilities:
- Fill the talent pipeline with highly skilled, qualified workers
- Recruit new students
- Differentiate from competitors’ programs
- Create partnerships with local companies