Skills assessment solutions help enhance the knowledge of industrial workers

Feb. 1, 2022
Sheila Kennedy says use these tools to validate industrial knowledge and uncover gaps to increase workforce effectiveness.

Understanding and enhancing the knowledge and aptitude of the industrial workforce is crucial to increasing confidence in their skill sets. To help gauge how prospective and current employees measure up, pinpoint areas needing improvement, and identify those who stand out, plants can choose from a variety of purpose-built skills assessment solutions. Identifying opportunities and gaps by reviewing reliability work products is another effective option.

Skills assessment products

An assessment should be used to assist in developing an individual training plan and a facility plan for closing identified skill gaps, suggests Terry Southall, strategic account manager at Reliability Solutions Training. It shows leadership areas within the company/facility to either improve, sustain, or complement knowledge.

Reliability Solutions Training offers three different knowledge assessments: Mechanical, Instrumentation & Electrical, and Operations. The maintenance assessments target both core and reliability knowledge spanning from apprentice, journeyman, and engineer levels. “Questions are pulled from multiple sources, such as Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT), SMRP certification writers, standards-based job task analyses (JTAs), and our instructors, who have all served within industry for a minimum of 20 years as a craftsman, operator, or engineer,” explains Southall.

Maintenance assessment tests from TPC Training are designed to ensure the workforce performs to a common set of industry standards. Hands-on assessments can be completed in a virtual simulated environment, where the trainee has the ability to make mistakes without risking injury or damage to equipment, says Ryan Smith, director of technical content at TPC Training.

Technology Toolbox

This article is part of our monthly Technology Toolbox column. Read more from Sheila Kennedy.

“Skills verification activities and testing are often unstructured, whether it be through on-the-job shadowing or word-of-mouth knowledge transfer between a mentor and trainee, but this approach becomes inconsistent across multiple mentors, shifts, and locations,” asserts Smith. “Having a documented skills verification approach will lead to more confidence in the retention of skills in the modern workplace, not to mention a higher degree of follow-through and personal ownership of skills.”

Manufacturing skills assessment programs from Scientific Management Techniques utilize hands-on competency-based manufacturing skill assessment machines to dramatically lower the risk and cost of hiring, says the company’s president, Stephen Berry.

According to Berry, program users in 47 countries identify and measure both pre-existing skills and the aptitude for learning prior to hire. Many Fortune 500 manufacturers also assess their incumbent workforce to identify individuals they could/should consider for promotion and to identify skill gaps. “With the skill gap analysis, our clients have the ability to deliver highly targeted skill training,” he adds.

The Precision Metalforming Association (PMA) offers two evaluation tools specifically created for the manufacturing/metalforming industry. The Metalworking Skills Assessment aids in evaluating an individual’s skills, while the Occupational Aptitude and Knowledge Assessment (OAKA) is designed to be a predictor of an applicant’s potential to learn and apply the knowledge.

“Tools such as these are especially important to companies seeking to broaden their talent pool and fill a multitude of vacancies,” explains Nichol Lopriore, executive director of the PMA Educational Foundation. The Educational Foundation works with the metalforming industry to deliver solutions to workforce development needs, such as skills assessments and national skills standards, to help overcome and close the manufacturing skills gap.

Vector Assessment is a knowledge assessment tool that can be added on to the Vector Learning Management System (LMS) software package from Vector Solutions. Described as a training and career pathing tool, Vector Assessment allows users to create new knowledge assessments using organization-specific competencies, receive alerts when minimum standards are not met, and develop a customized learning plan of courses based on the results. Use of the tool helps to optimize onboarding, improve performance, and identify risk.

Work product evaluation

Reviewing the practical application of reliability best practices is another useful approach to assessing industrial skills. “Failure modes and effects analysis (FMEA) and root cause analysis (RCA) are two important tools we use to identify what skills must be improved to mitigate known losses and failures that may occur again unless the skills gap is addressed,” says Paul Borders, Senior Principal Consultant at Life Cycle Engineering.

“Maintenance professionals are challenged to keep their plant operating but they are often doing it with team members who desperately need their skills upgraded,” Borders adds. LCE’s Life Cycle Excellence consulting and assessment programs and Life Cycle Institute training and certification programs are designed to help organizations improve performance and better meet objectives by addressing this challenge.

This story originally appeared in the February 2022 issue of Plant Services. Subscribe to Plant Services here.

About the Author: Sheila Kennedy
About the Author

Sheila Kennedy | CMRP

Sheila Kennedy, CMRP, is a professional freelance writer specializing in industrial and technical topics. She established Additive Communications in 2003 to serve software, technology, and service providers in industries such as manufacturing and utilities, and became a contributing editor and Technology Toolbox columnist for Plant Services in 2004. Prior to Additive Communications, she had 11 years of experience implementing industrial information systems. Kennedy earned her B.S. at Purdue University and her MBA at the University of Phoenix. She can be reached at [email protected] or

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