Editor's Note: this post was originally featured on Centered on Safety and was reprinted with permission.
As contractors, colleges, and workforce development groups focus on recruiting the next generation of skilled craft professionals, an important piece to the process is adapting training to technologically savvy employees. According to Colby Humphry, Director of the Pinnacle Center for Competitive Intelligence & Development (CCID), recruitment should include partnerships with high schools, community networking, development of internships and skills training workshops. Contractors also need to consider how to make their company and the construction industry more attractive and fun—a polished public image on your website, how clean your equipment is, and what your employees wear. Read more about this on ForConstructionPros.com. At CIS, we also believe there’s value in understanding how younger generation workers use technology and applying that to training and work practices. This is a key reason we’ve embarked on a multi-month study of how crane simulators impact learning. A recent article in Industrial Safety & Hygiene News titled “Future Workers Spend Most of their Time on Smartphones,” got me thinking about whether these ever-present devices are viable as safety and training aids. It’s widely accepted that there are many productivity benefits to using smart phones on the job site—the ability to digitize equipment inspections, increase collaboration and communication, and share documentation are just a couple examples. Training programs can also adapt to incorporate the use of smart phones. First, employers should make expectations and policies clear regarding the use of smartphones on the job. While they do provide a convenient communication method, using smart phones to chat with family and friends and engage in social media activity presents a workplace distraction. The use of smart phones should be limited to work related activity during work hours, except in cases of emergencies that require immediate attention or when the employee is on break.

Phones as Safety Aids

Employers can use mobile technology to communicate with workers quickly and efficiently. Messaging cuts past the clutter of email and provides instant communication with a mobile construction workforce, many of whom never step foot in an office. Companies can use the platform to send safety reminders. Encouraging use of camera and video tools when employees discover workplace hazards is another way for workers to communicate with safety departments and be involved in actively mitigating job site hazards. There are also many useful apps that can provide workers access to additional safety information, but safety departments should prescribe which apps are recommended for workers, or even provide access to your own company’s safety policies and materials. Often employees may work alone or in remote locations. Apps that are designed to protect the solitary worker are great addition to construction safety programs.

Engaging Training

When it comes to training, smart phones provide easy access to continuous learning and skill development. Software company Qnnect suggests micro learning, which “focuses solely on the important stuff for one particular topic and relies on the fact that short bursts of learning are a great way to increase engagement and employee satisfaction.” Smart phones also provide a fun, engaging way to deliver blended learning when workers are pulled aside for classroom training. Real time collaboration and communication among peers helps to reinforce lessons being taught. It’s also possible to use the devices for putting lessons into practice. For example, load chart training might be applied to building a lift plan using online software, or to search for applicable OSHA regulations or ASME Standards related to a classroom discussion or problem. Today, smart phones are an extension of the employee. Smart employers will understand how to harness the platform’s capabilities while providing guidance on appropriate use.

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About NCCER

NCCER develops standardized construction and maintenance curricula and assessments with portable credentials. These credentials are tracked through NCCER’s National Registry which allows organizations and companies to track the qualifications of their craft professionals and/or check the qualifications of possible new hires. The National Registry also assists craft professionals by maintaining their records in a secure database.