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Strategies for Developing the Technical Skills of Nontechnical Workers

There are more technical job openings than people qualified to fill them.

People entering the workforce commonly opt out of trade work, even though many technical jobs can pay as well—or better than—administrative jobs. At the same time, technical experts with decades of experience and institutional knowledge are reaching retirement age, leaving the workforce without enough incoming trained workers to backfill their positions.

With too many open roles and a talent pipeline too small to fill them, how can organizations solve this gap?

At GP Strategies, our philosophy for building a competent technical workforce involves embracing the following key concepts:

  1. People naturally desire to learn, and fostering continuous learning keeps them highly engaged and motivated.  
  2. Technical skills can be taught and developed, even among those who come from nontechnical backgrounds.  
  3. Implementing strategic technical training and self-guided learning can lead your organization to success. 

With the current skills gap crisis and our philosophy in mind, developing technical skills in nontechnical workers is now crucial for organizational success. By adopting our philosophy and implementing the following key strategies, organizations can empower their nontechnical workers to thrive in technical roles and contribute effectively to the ever-changing demands of the modern workforce.

Key Strategies for Developing Skills in Nontechnical Workers

1. Provide Comprehensive Training Programs with Real-World Applications

Offer a mix of classroom instruction, hands-on training, and self-guided learning to provide workers transitioning to technical roles with a well-rounded education covering fundamental skills and industry-specific knowledge. Our expert facilitators can help with instructor-led training and GPiLEARN+ online training content can support self-guided learning to complete your program.  

As workers transition into technical roles, they need opportunities to apply their newly acquired skills in real-world scenarios. Practical, hands-on experiences allow your people to consolidate their learning and gain a deeper understanding of the applications and implications of their new skillset. These experiences might include job shadowing, on-the-job training, or participation in collaborative projects directly using their new technical skills.

2. Promote Continuous Learning and a Growth Mindset

Encourage workers transitioning to technical roles to continue learning and refining their skills, even after they have completed their initial training. Promoting a culture that values learning, adaptability, and resilience can help workers successfully navigate the challenges of transitioning into technical roles.   To do this, provide opportunities for your people to attend workshops, conferences, and other professional development events to help them stay current on industry trends, expand their knowledge, develop new skills, and foster a growth mindset. Encourage them to perceive challenges as opportunities for personal and professional development. They should savor their learning journey as an ongoing process wherein they continuously acquire new skills and improve existing ones.

3. Incorporate Assessments, Feedback Loops, and Performance Metrics

Regularly evaluate workers’ progress as they transition to technical roles by providing constructive feedback to help them grow and improve. This ongoing support and feedback can help your people feel supported during what might feel like a vulnerable time in their careers. It can also help make them more confident in their abilities and ensure that they continue to develop the skills needed for their new roles. 

To effectively track workers’ progress transitioning to technical roles as they develop their new skills, establish feedback loops and performance metrics that provide tangible data on their growth. These tools can help employees and their supervisors identify areas of strength and weakness, tailor training programs to address individual needs, and gauge the effectiveness of various learning strategies. 

Consistently monitoring and assessing employee performance is how organizations can ensure that their workforce remains agile, skilled, and prepared for the demands of an ever-evolving technical landscape.

The Role of Soft Skills in Technical Transformation

Soft skills are notoriously overlooked when training technical talent, but by cultivating a balanced skillset that combines technical with soft skills, learning leaders can help workers transitioning to technical roles contribute meaningfully to the organization’s success. 

In addition to fundamental technical skills, soft skills such as communication, teamwork, adaptability, and time management are critical for success in technical roles because they facilitate collaboration, enable effective problem-solving, help people lead teams and projects, convey complex problems and solutions to stakeholders, and promote a positive work environment.

Leadership training can be particularly valuable, especially in the instance when the most competent frontline worker is promoted to a leadership position. Organizations experience a tangible benefit from formally investing in their leaders—a well-trained manager is better prepared to lead important conversations with their people and encourage high performance.

Teaching soft skills to technical workers requires a tailored approach that recognizes the unique needs and challenges of individuals in their specific fields, and providing abundant contextual relevance, interactive workshops or simulations, customized training programs, and plenty of coaching and mentoring are all excellent ways to help technical works develop soft skills.

Crafting Technical Talent for the Future

A workforce armed with both technical capability and well-honed soft skills is not only better equipped to tackle complex challenges but also becomes a valuable asset in driving innovation, collaboration, and sustained success. Ultimately, the journey toward skilled technical excellence is a shared one, with organizations and individuals working hand-in-hand to cultivate a culture of continuous learning and evolution. 

To learn more about how to develop and maintain your technical workforce, download our eBook, Crafting Technical Talent.  

About the Authors

GP Strategies Corporation
GP Strategies is a global performance improvement solutions provider of sales and technical training, e-Learning solutions, management consulting and engineering services. GP Strategies' solutions improve the effectiveness of organizations by delivering innovative and superior training, consulting and business improvement services, customized to meet the specific needs of its clients. Clients include Fortune 500 companies, manufacturing, process and energy industries, and other commercial and government customers.

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