Realisation • 10 June 2022

Innovative learning technologies for the low-skilled people: do they work?

How do you ensure that low-skilled people are better integrated into the labour market? And can new technologies such as VR glasses and smart voice assistants help?

Can innovative learning technologies help increasing the employment opportunities of low-skilled people? This was tested by the BHC21 partners in West-Flanders, North France and South England in the context of the BHC21 project. Together with her colleagues, Kim Dekeyser, researcher in instructional design & technology at the KU Leuven (campus Kulak), investigated the experiences of trainees and trainers with the learning technologies. Besides this, she will also investigate the extent the learning technologies also increase the employment opportunities of trainees.

Kim Dekeyser: 'Our project BHC21 focusses on low-skilled people without a secondary school diploma or who lack the skills to work in industry. The participants have received technical training with the help of learning technologies. For example, VR glasses were used to train food packaging operators at VDAB Roeselare in Flanders or welders at Mid Kent College in UK. Also, smart voice assistants supported the trainees from CETIM in France via voice technology. You can compare this last one with the well-known Siri or Alexa. The technologies gave participants a better idea of what jobs the industry can offer, and whether they would qualify for them.

'The advantage of innovative learning technologies is that they take into account the learning needs of our target group. These people often have negative school experiences. They don't like to sit for hours listening to a trainer. They want to be able to work independently, right away, have a hands-on mentality... These things are made possible thanks to the technologies. This way trainees experience learning success. This is important, because it is precisely their learning motivation that is often lacking. Moreover, learning with innovative technologies is much safer than the classic training on a real machine. Accidents happen sometimes, especially to inexperienced trainees'

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'Our research shows that the students are generally very enthusiastic about the learning technologies. They needed some times to adapt at the beginning, but this went surprisingly smooth - smoother than you would think given their limited digital skills. For example, our research shows that you don't need much basic digital skills to work with VR glasses.'

‘Training with innovative learning technologies succeeds in providing trainees with the right vocational skills and motivation to learn. Besides this, we also want to help companies find qualified staff for jobs in the industry. The biggest problem is not so much recruiting people, but keeping them on board. Offering them an exciting hands-on training with innovative learning technologies can be one of the solutions. Especially since digital skills are required in more and more jobs. The time when workers simply did a manual job is over. If trainees manage to practice new skills with the VR glasses, they will also be more likely to transfer the new skills to the work floor. That's also interesting for the employers.'.’

‘We want to encourage companies to organise this kind of training and convince them to invest in it. Many companies think that they will not reach the low-skilled audience, but you have to offer them the right challenge. And innovative learning technologies help with that.'

For interested companies, our research has a double message. One: invest in innovative learning technologies, you can only benefit from them. And two: don't do it thoughtlessly, or just because it is hip or modern. On the site of the BHC21 project you will find a decision tool:it helps you to find out which learning technologies could be interesting for your company. The tool is free. Try it out!'.’

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