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Train the blue-collar trainer

train the blue-collar trainer

Trainer. Skills Trainer. Training Specialist. Learning Consultant. Regardless of the title, the role of a blue-collar trainer is vital. Trainers in the industry are essential. They can provide mandatory training like health & safety instructions that every worker has to refresh from time to time. And trainers also play a crucial role in the onboarding process when new employees start. Especially in logistics where seasonality is responsible for onboarding many employees at the same time, the trainer plays an important role in company success.

Becoming a trainer is not following a specific path. But a particular skill set is needed. With this article, we want to show what a good trainer needs and how to develop your trainers.

5 Key Skills of a Blue-Collar Trainer

When hiring new trainers or helping existing employees into the career path of a trainer, it is vital to have a wishlist of skills available. Once you understand the relevant requirements for the job, you can start helping your trainer team to improve their existing talents.

1. Communication Skills

Training is a combination of understanding problems, conducting training, and expressing company ideas, mainly through verbal communication. Therefore, a competent trainer should be able to:

  • Clearly explain complex processes to new employees
  • Exhibit active listening through verbal and non-verbal messages
  • Know when to ask open-ended and clarifying questions
  • Establish rapport

Furthermore, don’t overlook facilitation and presentation as part of communication skills. When delivering training, create a safe place to facilitate learning and discussion. Be open and share vulnerabilities. Trainers can gain, not lose credibility with this method. Consequently, employees will be more receptive to a trainer that shares real experiences and stories of growth compared to listening to an expert. 

An audience of adult learners only has an attention span of 8 seconds. Trainers must deliver engaging content. For this reason, spend the prep time to memorize most of the training. If your head is buried in your notes, you will lose your audience. 

And don’t forget, safety protocols, e.g., for operating a forklift may be second nature to you, but training sessions can be mentally draining for employees. An experienced trainer will know when to schedule breaks or when it is time for an impromptu break.  

TIP: Help your trainers improve their communication skills. Having a coach available to mirror their teaching technique can create a significant improvement.

2. Analytical Skills

A blue-collar trainer doesn’t need to possess the same skills as an actuary, but it is important to be able to access what training is required and how it should be delivered.

Trainers must analyze each situation to provide meaningful training.

  • Tailor training sessions to topic and audience (the training needs differ for someone working in packaging versus delivery)
  • Incorporate a variety of classroom and hands-on learning to appease all learning styles
  • Anticipate the needs of employees
  • Determine the best way to motivate employees to implement the training lessons
  • Include practical and applicable case studies and practice sections

“Think about the skill set of the worker; What do they need to do their job?” Mary – Supply Chain Manager

Besides creating valuable training sessions, a trainer must first analyze what training is needed. Trainers can, and should, use instructional design principles to:

  • Identify the appropriate learning approach
  • Design training materials
  • Create a curriculum or training program
  • Conduct a needs assessment
  • Collaborate with stakeholders (this includes the employees that will be receiving the training) 
TIP: Encourage your trainers to get feedback from the participants to improve their training. Provide them with insights about the training group, which can help them to create the right training upfront. It can also be helpful to hire an instructional designer who can help with the training material.

3. Organizational Skills

Organization is a must-have skill for any trainer. Especially in the blue-collar environment, it is important to organize the training as efficiently as possible. Time is always short in factories, and every minute a worker is not working in their job, your company is loosing money. 

Trainers are often juggling many tasks: A good trainer is continuously learning about your industry and the needs of each job role. As previously mentioned, they are also analyzing training needs and creating new material. At the same time, trainers are preparing for and facilitating training sessions.

Time management and organization go hand in hand for trainers. Calendars and to-do lists are a must for any trainer.

TIP: Plan your training carefully in advance and make sure the learning environment is appropriate. 

4. Passion for Learning

Learning in any workplace, office, or warehouse is a continuous process. Trainers must be at the forefront and set the example for continued learning. As a result, employees will feel their passion for learning. 

For example, a blue-collar trainer should follow new insights and best practices in the field of training in addition to staying abreast of the industry-specific happenings. Learning from other industries and adapting those techniques to their own unique needs often brings significant improvement for your training.

TIP: Workshops within the trainer team can encourage people to share experiences, improve their training, and keep on learning. You can also hire experienced trainers from outside of your company to give an update on the latest training techniques.

5. Industry Knowledge

“Learn it yourself. Go to the workers and get to know their job.” Mary – Supply Chain Manager

This nugget is not 5th on the list due to a lack of importance. On the contrary. Industry knowledge earns a spot at the end of the list, so it is the final thing on your mind.

Imagine you are an employee working on the floor of a logistical warehouse. You are attending mandatory training on “The Art of Feedback.” The training summary states you will learn how to deliver and receive feedback. During the practice, all of the examples and role-playing exercises take place in a law office or bank. Are you able to connect to the material? Do you trust that the trainer understands the challenges of your job? – Of course not. Adults need and demand training that is relatable to their job role and industry.

For this reason, take the time to follow industry trends and incorporate this information into training. Know the challenges facing employees to anticipate questions that may arise. Training on topics of workplace safety or departmental regulations and procedures will fall flat if you do not understand the challenges facing your audience. 

TIP: Let the trainers spend time with your workers to see the real circumstances of the job. They don’t have to know every detail of the job, but they should be familiar with the topic, use the right words…

Training for Blue-Collar Trainers

Becoming a fantastic blue-collar trainer is a work in progress. Combine industry knowledge and a dollop of communication skills. Add a dash of facilitation skills for spice. Don’t forget to sprinkle in a hint of credibility and passion.

Likewise, the art of being a blue-collar trainer is ever-evolving. Improve your art by continuing your education.

“Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young.” 

 Henry Ford

Training never ends. Not for someone working on a packing line nor for the employee fulfilling orders. Above all, training and learning never stops for a blue-collar trainer.

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