Skills gap? There’s an app for that

Mr. Captain, in this time of high demand and low supply of maintenance techs, we are having to start with zip (young minds) and fill them up with the garbage we know.

Can you recommend “user-friendly” devices/meters/analyzers, alignment tools, or even sonic grease guns that have guided diagnostics and built-in guides that would help bring young techs and the old maintenance departments into this current age of reliability? 

Thank you for all of your help.
– Bill, reliability engineer, Arizona

Sure thing, Bill – as you know, the Captain is an expert in all things reliability. Choosing “user-friendly” tools that can help bridge the gap between old and new is no exc…

WAIT!! WHAT?! There is a huge gap in trade skills and an aging workforce, and the solution we are looking for is devices? We hire warm bodies who can’t even fix a sandwich, so we want to put microwaves in the restaurants instead of teaching them to be chefs?

OK, I’ll bite. Here is my list of devices and apps that can close the gap between the skills of today and the entry-level skills of many newly hired technicians.

  1. YouTube. You can learn how to build a car from scratch watching someone else do it. Heck, you can get results searching “how to perform brain surgery.”
  2. Certificate Maker. The Certificate Maker app available on both iOS and Android will help you get certified in pretty much anything you can type with your thumbs. These homemade certifications can demonstrate your knowledge and let everyone know just how much of an expert you are.
  3. Fix Machine Lite: Physics Game. This game asks the player to repair a transporter. It combines mechanical and electrical understanding as you must also connect a battery. This may be a two-player game in some plants, as only the electrician can connect the battery.
  4. Fan Repair Mechanics Shop. This app is all about appliance repair. Learn the basics of troubleshooting and fixing as new customers drop off their fans with different issues you must figure out. (Note: There are similar apps for auto repair, office repair, air conditioning repair, and many others. Ace these apps and you will be top mechanic in your shop.)
  5. Facebook, Twitter, & Instagram. Here you have an open forum for asking troubleshooting questions. Not always the quickest response when a machine is down, but hey, we will have their engagement.
  6. Others. There are many ways to load your phone with apps that can help you in your day-to-day troubleshooting. Do a search on “mobile + phone + maintenance + reliability + tool” and you will turn up plenty of helpful information that will help you find the apps you need the most.
  7. Do nothing. This is probably the most common tool in industry. What you do is write a job description that requires an 18-year-old to have 132 years of experience. Also, pay them at the rate of a part-time Taco Bell employee but expect the work of a Ph.D. Then, during the interview, they can lie about all they great things they have done. Finally, when they are hired and nothing is accomplished, you can blame them and repeat this glorious cycle.

There seem to be lots of options to improve worker skills using just one device, the smartphone. Given that the smartphone is the missing link to improved technical skills, we should encourage all kids to spend more time on their phones. Clearly screen time is key to ensuring they obtain the right skills.

Additionally, we need to fund more apps that are geared toward improving mechanical aptitude, electrical skills and controls skills as well as common sense. As we all know, the world needs less conversation and more phone time!