A much-discussed manufacturing skills gap between retiring baby boomers and millennials in their 20s and 30s—plus, current 18 to 23-year-olds who belong to Generation Z—remains an issue.

According to a 2018 Manufacturing Skills Gap study from Deloitte, the skills gap may leave an estimated 2.4 million positions unfilled over the next decade. The study also shows that positions related to digital talent, skilled production, and operational management may be three times more difficult to fill in the next three years.

Companies and educational institutions linked to manufacturing in the United States and around the world have anticipated this gap for years and taken steps to mitigate the fallout. One example is ZEISS with ZEISS Academy: a wide selection of training options for customers working in medical technology, microscopy, sports optics, and vision care—and now, industrial metrology.  

Aliesha Anderson, Applications Internal Training and Development Manager at ZEISS Industrial Quality Solutions, breaks down the company’s latest online learning program.

Quality: Why did ZEISS decide to launch an e-learning program for metrologists?

Aleisha Anderson: All major industries are facing a lot of challenges in technology, processes and requirements, mainly caused by digitalization.  This requires long-lasting adaptation and learning—not only in R&D or production areas, but also in metrology.  When it comes to learning, digitalization is not only the trigger, but also the mechanism to meet these requirements. 

We launched this program because we saw a need in the industry and a demand from our customers, as the need to become more flexible, faster, and to provide a more personalized learning experience has arisen. This learning format enables learning on demand, anywhere and anytime.

ZEISS Industrial Quality Solutions

Source: ZEISS Industrial Quality Solutions

Rising university prices and a widening manufacturing skills gap are making digital courses more attractive for the incoming work force. How will this program help to prepare them for what a metrology career looks like now?

In metrology, we realize that it is growing even more important to not only help our trainees understand software and/or hardware-specific applications. We also need to train [for] mathematics basics, GD&T, statistics and other fundamental topics. With our eLearnings, we are able to enhance our portfolio and provide a path to develop skills and careers on a solid foundation.

Software and Hardware-related eLearning courses are built to complement and enhance classroom training, while providing a deep-dive experience on targeted topics. We realize classroom training is not the only way to learn and to truly provide the knowledge required in the industry today; we need to offer a broader and more flexible solution of offerings. 

Our eLearning program is also built around learning paths that have been defined for different levels of career development.  Between Classroom training, eLearning, Live Online Training, Apps and eBooks, we can provide a robust, well-rounded training offering that is flexible enough to accommodate the variety of schedules in the industry.

Could you explain how the learning sessions are ordered, and how the free courses were selected as such?

The three major areas we targeted for the initial offerings are in the areas of our CALYPSO Software, PiWeb Reporting and GD&T topics. These courses complement our learning paths concept and fit in the learning stream based on the metrology area of emphasis a person is working within (i.e. Traditional Geometric Measurement, X-Ray Measurement, Freeform Measurement, etc.)

ZEISS Industrial Quality Solutions

Source: ZEISS Industrial Quality Solutions

The free courses were identified by considering what some of the most commonly used topics are that would be widely beneficial to customers, and identifying areas where we can provide additional self-help support if and when questions occur. 

How does the Metrology Community forum work?

The Metrology Community is meant to be a place where peers can share ideas and questions on measurement challenges, new ways of doing things, new ideas, and provide community support to each other. This forum is also monitored by ZEISS personnel who help provide insight on questions and functionality. 

Will this program be a part of any university, trade school, or other kind of outside curriculum, in partnership with ZEISS?

Through the ZEISS Academic Program we partner with universities and trade schools on metrology topics, equipment and curriculum. Specific eLearning content will be used as a part of this program to support instructors and students in their studies.

ZEISS Industrial Quality Solutions

Source: ZEISS Industrial Quality Solutions

Finally, what do you see as the future of learning/training for metrology jobs, especially as they become more high-tech and automated?

I think it all comes down to flexibility and integrating technology more and more into what we do. For certain topics, online learning just cannot replace the skills learned in a hands-on training course (at least, not yet). However, once a foundation is built, I think there’s a great opportunity to offer more dynamic training options: eLearning, Live Online, Apps, Blended learning, etc. The possibilities really become endless as we evolve in our technological capabilities as a society.