The Knowledge Gap: What’s the Missing Piece?

Subscribe to our blog. The industrial industry is seeing a notable shift in the average age of its workforce, and it’s not alone. Across the United States, many highly specialized businesses are scrambling to fill a growing staffing deficit as people who are over the age of 50 retire, taking 30+ years’ worth of knowledge and on-the-job experience with them. This deficit is being backfilled by an influx of millennials who are beginning to build their careers in the workforce…and the numbers are substantial. Some estimates have even gauged that by 2025, 75% of the global workforce will be comprised of millennials.

Millennials bring some major benefits to the business world. They have a high aptitude for quickly adopting new technology, as well as a drive to thoroughly research information to ensure that they can make well-informed decisions. They are known for collaborating, and yes, they also have a propensity to look for jobs that will allow them to wear jeans to work. That said, there is one thing that many companies in the industrial industry are finding millennials are lacking in comparison to their retiring counterparts – experience.

In our industry, this lack of experience is becoming commonly known as the “knowledge gap” – the large and growing gap between what novice workers bring to the table and what the experienced industry experts take with them as they head into retirement. In some circumstances, the effects of this can be minor; for example, time can be lost if a young installer is using an inefficient method to apply a product. In other circumstances, the impacts can be far greater. For example, an inexperienced engineer, who isn’t familiar with real-world performance of various products, could specify a material that is poorly suited to the application. This can put personnel safety at risk, cause unscheduled shutdowns, increase maintenance costs, damage the insulation and possibly the surrounding equipment, and it can even negatively impact process control (an error that could go unnoticed for months or more before being rectified).

Given the broad range of applications and positions in the industrial industry that require a nuanced understanding not only of what to do, butwhyyou do it, losing people who have valuable on-the-job knowledge can be a critical blow to any team. As such, many industrial businesses are now facing a growing need for training and education for their younger employees, and they are finding that the opportunities for this type of education are few and far between.

At Johns Manville Industrial Insulation Group, we have not only heard this from our customers but are seeing it first hand in the industry.  The good news is that we are in a unique position to help. As a long-standing manufacturer of one of the largest insulation portfolios in the U.S., we have the resources, the depth of knowledge, and the hands-on expertise to help the industry minimize the effects of the knowledge gap.

In 2015, we hosted our first IPIW – Industrial Product Information Workshop. This was a unique  opportunity for anyone who wanted to sign up to attend a free, two-day course to learn about our products and the basics of the industrial insulation industry. The IPIW covered everything from product specs to a hands-on installation demo. The course was a great opportunity for contractors, engineers, and distributors to learn not only about our products, but how specific materials interact with different systems, and various approaches to combat major issues like corrosion under insulation (CUI) or potential risks to your system optimization. This workshop provided an opportunity for people just entering the industrial industry workforce to get hands-on experience with industrial insulation in a no-risk environment.  After the presentation we received positive feedback from our participants – who were clamoring for more sessions like it.  In fact, the presentation was so successful that we committed to hosting three more workshops in 2016 (for more information on the next IPIW on November 9th and 10th, click here).

The IPIWs laid the groundwork for our advanced industrial masters’ course. In this expanded workshop, qualified attendees (those with 5+ years of experience working in the industrial industry or who have already attended an IPIW) will get to take an in-depth look at not only our products, but also industrial insulation materials and products produced by other major industry manufacturers. In this course, we will discuss typical installation techniques and dig more deeply into applications where the products should and should not be used. These workshops are hosted by technical experts who each have 10+ years of experience in the industrial insulation industry and who hail from a number of different insulation manufacturers. The course is geared toward those in the industry who are looking to expand their knowledge and increase their understanding of the variety of products they specify, sell, supply, install, and use every single day.

We are well aware that there are an abundance of issues that impact the industrial industry, and having ill-prepared employees is only one of them. At Johns Manville, we have a passion for ensuring that our customers have the best chance at success, and our goal is to champion your employees to succeed. Hosting our IPIWs is just part of this effort. We want to take our 150+ years of knowledge and pass it on to you.     

To inquire about the IPIW scheduled for November 9th and 10th in Brunswick, GA, click here.

To inquire about the Industrial Master’s Course on November 16th and 17th in Denver, CO,  please click here. You will be contacted by a JM representative with more information.