123Fab #61

1 topic, 2 key figures, 3 startups to draw inspiration from

According to a McKinsey report, the prediction that machines and automation would destroy more jobs than they would create has proven wrong. On the contrary, even the most advanced factories in terms of automation, the “lighthouses”, are hiring heavily. However, as many as 375 million workers may need to switch occupational categories and learn new skills. At the same time, recruiting and retaining skilled workers is becoming increasingly difficult for manufacturers. According to a study by Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute, U.S manufacturers say it is 36% harder to find the right talent today than it was in 2018, even as the unemployment rate has nearly doubled the number of available workers. This highlights the gap between the skills manufacturers are looking for and the skills available in the labour market. As many as 2.1mn manufacturing jobs will be unfilled by 2030 and this shortage could ultimately cost the U.S. economy up to $1tr dollars.

In its traditional sense, a blue-collar worker refers to workers who perform strenuous manual labor and mindless tasks, typically in agriculture, manufacturing, construction, logistics, or maintenance. Nowadays, these activities are typically performed by machines and new-age jobs in these sectors have evolved with the advancement in technology and robotics. They now require a certain level of digital literacy to successfully manage tasks and ensure intelligent workflows. Today, the focus is on building a workforce that can operate, repair and maintain technology rather than perform physical tasks. This knowledge gap makes it difficult for both historical blue-collar workers to find jobs and for manufacturers to recruit qualified people for the job. And the desire of many Western countries to reshore some of their activities and downsize the supply chain may increase the need for these new blue-collars.

This significant shortfall of medium-skilled jobs requiring a certain level of training could be addressed by investing more in further skilling and upskilling the blue-collar workforce. Many startups are trying to tackle this problem and are offering solutions to address this worker shortage and knowledge gap. They are supporting the development of blue-collar skills through training, sometimes even putting them in touch with employers. Some focus directly on training and knowledge management tools, others more on intelligent equipment to assist them in their daily tasks. There are also platforms for planning assignments and fostering coordination according to individual skills. Recently, Indian startup Apna became a unicorn in less than two years. The startup connects blue-collar workers with each other, as well as with employers and offers training to upskill. Large groups are also turning to these startups to skill their employees and improve their recruitment process. Toyota, Casio, Shell and several others, for example,  use RapL, a micro-learning workforce training platform. Beyond technical, practical or digital knowledge, training can also include use cases on company safety procedures or on new standards like EHS (environment, health, safety) and ESG (environment, social, governance).

Beyond the benefits to the company, employee training has many advantages. According to Gartner, in 2018, 70% of employees reported not mastering the skills they need for their jobs. Structured training for blue-collar workers will not only diversify their skill sets but will also motivate them to be more productive while increasing their analytical thinking and problem-solving abilities.

While investment in blue-collar training seems necessary to address the worker shortages, it comes at a significant cost and does not directly guarantee productivity. Globally, the average cost per employee is $1,252, according to the Association for Talent Development’s 2016 State of the Industry Report. On the other hand, training via digital platforms or trainers does not ensure that employees will have the necessary skills to master the new technologies and truly progress.

With the shortage of blue-collar workers, training is becoming a priority, both for in-house employees and for recruiting new workers. Many large groups are teaming up with startups or external organizations to undertake these trainings. This market is now very important for blue-collars in factories, logistics and construction but it is increasingly expanding to other sectors and topics such as data, artificial intelligence or machine learning.

2 Key Figures

3,100+ startups in Corporate Learning 

More than one-third of the funding has been raised in the last years (2019-2020) according to Tracxn

$26.2 billion on internal and external training initiatives for new and existing employees

 According to The Manufacturing Institute, manufacturers spent $26.2 billion in 2020 on internal and external training initiatives for new and existing employees.

3 startups to draw inspiration from

This week, we identified three startups that we can draw inspiration from: Knowron, How.FM and Betterplace.


The German startup created an AI-based digital assistant for industrial workers. It provides on-spot diagnosis of machine problems, automated workflows using NLP technology, and real-time information on the machine.

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The German startup How.FM is a multi-language training software built to onboard, upskill, and support the blue-collar workforce. The digital coach can cover off everything from health and safety, and compliance training, to actual work procedures such as packing processes.

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The Indian startup helps companies with a all-in-one lifecycle platform intended to offer digital support for blue-collar workforce management.The plateform proposes to upskill every employee with a chatbot based app.

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