The COVID-19 pandemic wiped out nearly 40 million jobs dating back to mid-February. It didn’t matter which industry, as millions of workers were either sent home, let go or furloughed until further notice. In March and April, employers eliminated roughly 22 million jobs and, by April, the jobless rate hit 14.7 percent, a post-World War II high. Oil and gas industry jobs were affected significantly, as many were sent home to avoid getting sick.
According to The Wall Street Journal, the unemployment rate was just 3.5 percent in early February, matching a half-century low.
Even with some jobs returning in the summer, the jobless rate reached one of the highest levels since the Great Depression. By comparison, the U.S. shed about nine million jobs between December 2007 and February 2010, a period that encompassed the 18-month recession triggered by the financial crisis.
Keeping America Moving When Workers Are Home
Some industry employees, such as those working in an office, were able to move to a remote home-office location to continue their duties. While the quick transition was abrupt for many, today’s digital workplace environment actually caters to a work from home (WFH) environment. In fact, according to a scholarly NPR interview, it is estimated that 37 percent of American jobs could plausibly be done from the home office, compared to an estimated four percent of people who worked from home before the virus.
However, many oil and gas industry jobs must be handled from the field, and these cannot be relocated to a home office environment. As the industry slowly begins to recover, a percentage of these jobs will need to undergo additional training or re-training.
Using Virtual Technology to Re-train Employees
Social distancing rules will apply in the near term, and it is not known how long they will persist. Because of this, virtual technologies will play an increasing role, not only in helping some perform their jobs, but also in re-training construction industry workers.
Virtual technologies such as Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR) and Mixed Reality (MR) allow for an interactive experience between people and a real-world environment where objects from the actual setting are presented and enhanced by perceptual information from a computer.
Recent survey data published in TechRepublic illustrates the increased utilization of AR/VR across the enterprise. Companies within construction, technology, manufacturing, automotive, and aerospace and defense are prime examples of increased AR/VR use, and employee training and re-training are areas where AR/VR is expected to play a growing role.
The application and use of AR/VR in corporate training can increase engagement and knowledge retention levels. What’s more, employees can receive proper training in a safer, more cost-efficient format.
AR/VR enables oil and gas workers to receive instruction through practical and virtual experiences. In fact, this method is gaining momentum for many large companies, and it offers an effective way to learn a variety of skill sets, or even sharpen existing skill sets. This is important especially for manufacturing workers who have been idle from plants for two or three months and are now being called back to their jobs. Studies have even shown that learning through virtual experience increases the quality of learning and even retention rates by 75 to 90 percent.
In addition to business and soft-skills training, such as company protocols and procedures, and public speaking skills, AR/VR can offer training in high-risk areas such as safety and materials handling in a safer environment. For example, the oil and gas company, BP, used virtual training technologies to teach its employees start-up and exit procedures at a refinery in England.
As more oil and gas companies bring back employees, virtual technologies such as AR/VR will be utilized more frequently to re-train the critical skill sets they need in order to do their jobs effectively, efficiently and safely.