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What’s next for work in textile, construction,…
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Human Resources
Talent & labor organization

What’s next for work in textile, construction, chemistry & life sciences?

AMS research helps future-proof the role of work in vital industries

An aging workforce, how to build sustainable careers, and prioritizing workable work… these issues present specific challenges for the textile, construction, chemical, and life science industry.

AMS Competence Center “Next Generation Work” recently conducted industry-level thorough research on the subject. This research combines the viewpoints of both employees and employers, resulting in a comprehensive take on these crucial issues – and important information to future-proof these vital industries.
Peggy de prins phd
by Peggy De Prins, PhD | March 31, 2023
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Textile industry: aging as the most important (t)issue

The textile industry is faced with its very own challenges. 43% of the workforce in this industry is over 50, which is significantly more than the Flemish average of 30%. With a significant number of employees planning to retire in the next few years, the outlook is worrisome: there’ll be a substantial drop in expert employees preventing knowledge sharing in this particular industry.

Cobot and AMS, with the support of ESF, teamed up to anticipate these challenges. They built a strategic competence prognosis and a learning network to identify and track innovation trends.

  • Strategic competence prognosis

We mapped future competence requirements for the textile industry. Soft skills were seen as competencies that will become increasingly more important for multiple positions in the future. .

  • Learning network

We brainstormed on trending concepts like learning culture and open hiring–the principle where everyone who signs on gets a chance to work and prove themselves, making the job itself the hiring test. A practice becoming more mainstream in the textile industry.

Construction industry: prospects to build on

The Belgian construction industry looks to the future with a plan to hire 20,000 construction workers per year. However, finding and attracting the right talent isn’t an easy job. Positions such as foreman, quantity surveyor, structural engineer, and site supervisor have been on the list of bottleneck professions for a long time. The prospect of 47,000 workers retiring in the coming 10 years puts extra pressure on an ambitious industry.

An aging workforce and a shortage in the labor market present a double challenge. That’s why Constructiv and AMS collaborated to identify innovation trends to tackle this challenge. During focus groups and an innovation lab, we brought together multiple stakeholders to find fitting solutions.

These four innovation sites were identified:

  1. Reinforce the image and reputation of the industry. There are many traits to highlight which can counter the stereotypical image of hard, dirty work. It’s crucial to positively underline the difference with factory work. In addition, themes like sustainability, technology, and digitization can be emphasized. Focusing on ecological projects, the use of smart 3D glasses and printers, and the introduction of exoskeletons can improve the industry’s image.

  2. Highlight different ways of learning. Learning from mistakes, especially at the start of one’s career, should be normalized. Initiating a sustainable learning culture implies that it’s ok to make mistakes, as long as lessons are learned – both on an individual and organizational level, opening a productive dialogue.

  3. Recruiting refocus including diversity. Focusing on motivation before experience should result in a broader influx of talent. This dynamic is reinforced by increased attention to internal training and mentoring.

  4. Creating a sustainable HR policy. Well-being was extensively discussed in the focus groups and innovation lab, with participants stressing the importance of a supportive work atmosphere and building personal relationships with employees.

Chemistry & Life Sciences: the right connection works wonders

In the past 6 years, we’ve been the trusted academic partner for the Demographic Fund. Together with experts of the three main unions and industry organization Essencia, we shaped the mission of striving towards more workable work and sustainable careers in the industry. Labor time alterations, health promotion, investing in knowledge and experience exchange… the initiatives that can be financed by the Demographic Fund are multiple. Find out more here.

One main condition is the initiatives rooted in the social dialogue at a company level–unique in Belgium. This social dialogue has mainly focused on socio-economic hardware issues, such as buying power and wage costs, often highlighting a divide in interests between workers and employers.

Newer issues have been introduced in the past years, like more soft issues such as sustainable careers, work-related pressure, innovation, mobility, aging workforce, workable work… AMS researcher Peggy De Prins developed a whole new concept: Dialogue 2.0.

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