Manual trades: Poor parents of digital trainings

Pedagogy & Education Manual trades: Poor parents of digital trainings

In the age of the Factory of the Future and Industry 4.0, manual jobs - those that repair, build and shape the world - have been somewhat forgotten.

 A matter of image


Ask a college student about welding. What image does he or she have of it? How does one become a welder? The problem starts here. Today, young people need to be made aware of these jobs that are in short supply, and they need to discover the wide range of professions that they cannot even imagine. We need to promote these professions which, even today, are only alternatives to an “academic” career. 

And the image goes through experimentation. But it is very difficult to set up a discovery of the building trades without going to a building site, or of the industrial trades without going to a factory. In our educational system, everything is done to promote intellectual jobs (soft skills) and, if you are really too stupid, you are directed towards manual jobs (hard skills). The image of the professions is devalued, but also the image that the learner has of himself… He will surely be an artist in his field, he will be able to excel in his profession, he will always remember his failure in his school career. Everything is done in our society to value the intellect to the detriment of ability… 

What do we call a child whose intellectual skills are superior to the normal? A genius, a gifted person, a precocious child…. 

What do you call a child whose manual skills are superior to normal? … Think about it, I’m waiting for your answers! 

These skills are not valued, and they are only used when the first ones are not there. And yet it is indeed the manual skills that are implemented in the first place in the child and throughout his learning. With the digital revolution, generation Z is even more manual than before. They are developing a particular agility to manipulate tactile surfaces and game controllers. And yet our education system is stubbornly developing a massively intellectual education. The new generation wants to live an experience, to be passionate about the unknown by immersing themselves in it, whereas we try to make them learn by heart all the necessary tools. And this general remark is all the truer for manual jobs, cruelly absent from the list of dream jobs of our dear little ones. 


The digital solution


We talk about it a lot. Digital technology is here, on our doorstep, it is developing in most of our activities, in our companies. For a few years now, it has also made its entrance into the school, and we are now talking about eLearning, Social Learning, LMS, Serious Games, … So many tools that try to find an effective application of digital technology to teaching. But for our manual professions, digital technology has not yet entered the workshop! Or so little… 

However, virtual simulators are numerous and have been used for more than 20 years for pilots at AIRBUS or maintenance at AREVA. However, this field is still mainly the domain of large industrial groups and not very much of training centers or professional high schools. Today, with the advent of low-cost technological solutions, such as CARDBOARDS or OCULUS and HTC VIVE headsets, content is developing rapidly, and industrial virtual environments are beginning to be within the reach of schools. So why isn’t digital ubiquitous in vocational training? 

Two reasons: 

  1. Resistance to change. Teachers are not prepared for these new tools, which are often considered as games… And rightly so, because it is through games that we capture the attention of the younger generation and that we must allow them to learn. 
  1. The lack of integration in the pedagogy. These simulators are games in themselves. They are far from traditional learning methods. They often propose an individual experience while the trainer must manage a group. When integrated into a traditional pedagogy, simulators remain a means to enhance the image of the training but do not make it more efficient. Digital technology? A solution for the evolution and development of training in manual trades? Not only, and not enough! 

Digital technology requires a complete overhaul of teaching methods because it brings new ways of monitoring and training. It transforms the trainer’s job; it revolutionizes his training.