Unlocking Key Challenges of the Transient Skilled Workforce with a Digital Passport

Jun 15, 2021
Jeff Muto

The challenges of today’s mobile workforce can be met with a global, digital passport that follows contractor firms and skilled workers from job to job

The production of the world’s energy and non-energy materials rests on the shoulders of contract services firms. An enterprise company, who orders and manages the work (think: EOG Resources for oil/gas or AT&T for telcom), hires a contractor firm, who in turn employs field workers directly. 

This workforce model succeeds because large, enterprise companies want to outsource non-core work to contracting firms. It works for small contracting firms who typically employ just 40 to 50 workers, because they have local access to individual workers. This mutually-beneficial partnership enables field teams to scale up and down, based on economic demand and project contracts without having to hire and fire workers as markets cycle. 

It also creates challenges to skilled workforce availability. Because of the shrinking skilled talent pool and a simultaneous demand for more workers than are available (see The Changing Landscape of the Global Workforce), high turnover rates are rampant. 

This is the case across industries employing skilled workers, from oil and gas to renewables and manufacturing. In the telecom industry, for example, 86% of companies named skilled workforce availability the number one challenge they face, according to a recent Veriforce study. In fact, it’s estimated that for every skilled person entering the workforce, five retire

When contractor firms need workers in such an environment, they have two options. They either poach employees from rival firms and hike wages to fill temporary contracts, or they hire workers without any skilled workforce experience. 

And that’s where the problems begin. 

Tracing the contractor firm and their skilled worker: Who are they? What are their credentials? 

As workers move from contractor firm to contractor firm, or enter the skilled labor workforce with no training or prior experience, it’s nearly impossible to know: 

  • Are they qualified? 
  • What training have they had? 
  • What skills are they especially proficient in?
  • Are they licensed/certified in the skills required for the environment? 
  • Have they passed their drug screenings and background checks? 

As an enterprise company, how can you possibly know the worker’s qualifications? After all, they aren’t your direct employees, but brought to work on your worksites. As the contractor firm, how can you guarantee that the worker has the training and field experience they say they have? Both parties are technically operating on blind faith that a crew is trained and can do the work safely. 

In the Telcom industry, this means Sprint or Verizon believes the workers sent to work their towers by contractor firms know how to scale towers without falling off and can work safely at 200 feet in the air for most of the day. In manufacturing, this means Toyota or Boeing believe their workers know how to connect equipment and reduce assembly line mistakes.  

This three-way partnership between the enterprise company, the contractor firm and the worker, is critical to scaling up the skilled workforce. Each partnership depends on the other to do their job well — and safely. 

Take Joe Block, a seasoned telecom worker who has been retained by a contracting company called Ajac. He and 20 co-workers were sent to work at ABC Company’s site in Champaign, IL. 

Each ABC Company worker is required to comply with the following training: 

  • Local municipal training
  • State-mandated packet and test 
  • Site-specific safety video 
  • National safety certification 

How does ABC Company know that all 20 Ajac workers have completed the above? Does Ajac even know? 

Lucky for Joe, at his last job they required the same state-mandated packet and test and he let Ajac know that he’s already completed it. But how can Ajac verify this? Some training will come with a physical card attesting to completion or certification, but Joe may or may not carry his portfolio of credentials with him at all times. Still other certifications don’t garnish proof. And yet other certifications are only good for a certain amount of time.

Enter: The Digital Worker’s Passport.

Wouldn’t it be great if upon arrival at ABC’s Champaign, IL location, Joe could check in at the front vestibule with just his name, and all of his past training and credentials would pop up prior to gaining site entry? 

The on-site manager would know exactly where Joe was lacking in experience and training. He’d be able to help Joe plug these gaps before he went out to the field, or he’d send Joe off with confidence that he’d return safely at the end of the day, with a job done right. Regardless of how often Joe moves jobs, and where he’s been, his experience and training would all be accounted for. Similarly, if Joe had a recent DUI, or a near-miss, the manager would be able to address these challenges head-on as well. 

The need for a single system that streamlines both contractor firm and individual worker credentials is the solution to upskilling today’s shrinking worker base into tomorrow’s skilled labor force.


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