The link below is an article from Canadian Occupational Safety titled ‘Training a multi-generational workforce’.
My thoughts after reading the article…
Industry and skilled trades are a unique place where old meets new every day, all day. The people in construction, mining, oil and gas can range from age 18-65. The equipment being used can be the good old hand tool that has always been reliable or the brand new remote control overhead crane. Industry is quite literally home to many Canadians; shift work, long hours and living at remote camps to work close to a project becomes the norm. There is often a sense that we are ‘all in it together’.
It fascinates me that different generations with different experiences and training can learn to work together and effectively get a job done. It is not always easy, I have witnessed my share of negative interactions between the impatient old timer who has done the job 1000 times and the over eager green hat trying to impress.
As someone who has educated my peers in the workforce, organized on the job training for specific departments and coached groups of people on industry procedures, I know how diverse the age range and backgrounds of students in one educational setting can be.
Industry has taken the leap and made sure that they are not behind the times on education and training. A large part of the push has been due to the new(ish) focus and awareness on safety in the workplace, and establishing that safety starts with the individual. Heavy industry is a dangerous place, and the best way to let a new worker know about the hazards around them at their new job is to educate them. This is done by pre-job training, on the job training and mentorship programs.
Some of the old timers, especially those who started in industry very young and then stayed in the same job scope can find it difficult to grasp some of the new requirements in the workplace. Unless they transitioned to places of management or leadership, doing paperwork each and every day to make sure they are safe, their equipment is safe, their work area is safe, and their fellow employees are safe can seem foreign or redundant. The aforementioned mentorship programs, incentive programs for training and safe work recognition awards at daily toolbox talks are all different ways to educate and validate employees, who essentially are in a constant state of learning. Employees are often encouraged to take on apprenticeships and discuss with their supervisor personal goals, their desires to move up in the company and options to try new things.
Just like any other learning venue, it is important in industry to recognize that not everyone learns the same way. In fact, some people may have ended up in industrial settings by default because they felt that it was a comfortable place for someone who had no desire to have their nose in a book for the rest of their life, or sit behind a desk. Currently, it doesn’t matter what your job is in industry, at some point you will have to take training and continuing education to stay in the game. Instructors for industry have the unique challenge of educating people who are often taking training to keep their job, not to go out and obtain one afterwards. The group of learners can age in range and often there is a lot of material to cover in a short period of time. So how would an instructor know that everyone is absorbing the information and grasping the concepts being presented? You never really know, but you can do the best you can with what you have. Having as much information about the age range of your students and their learning styles will help.
The article in this link touches on the different generations currently in industry and what their learning styles are. It was insightful and a good reminder for me that just because I am of the generation that most likely makes up the majority of the workforce, doesn’t mean we can forget about the people who helped get us to where we are. They are still here, still contributing and still have a lot to offer. We have to continue to include them and continue to work together because ultimately, we are all teachers and we are all students and there is so much to learn from each other.