Upskill CEO and co-founder Brian Ballard was recently featured as IndustryWeek’s Manufacturing Leader of the Week. The profile highlights those who are driving growth in today’s industry and helping to shape the future of manufacturing. Fresh off his trip to the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, Ballard spoke candidly with IndustryWeek’s Matt LaWell about the role of wearables and augmented reality in bridging the growing industrial skills gap.

At Davos, Ballard observed that the industry as a whole is focused on increasing the capability of the workforce. Many of the conversations at WEF revolved around improving skills, emphasizing the importance of giving workers better capabilities so that they can continuously improve their performance. These discussions confirmed the relevance of Upskill’s recent rebrand – there is clearly a global shortage of skills among the industrial workforce.

Ballard notes that approximately half the total unemployed population will be affected by the skills gap in the coming years. Rather than putting workers through archaic training processes and tedious memorization routines, it is more efficient to equip people with tools that make the information they need available when and where they need it. This is where wearables and augmented reality come into play. And, they are giving enterprises the opportunity not only to upskill, but to reskill the workforce. For example, if an automotive technician switches to the aerospace industry, wearables can make the transition easier by delivering the information required for quickly learning new, but similar, processes.

When asked which companies inspire him, Ballard cited Microsoft and Apple, drawing parallels between what these companies did for the white-collar workforce to what Upskill is doing for the blue-collar workforce.

Read the full Q&A with Ballard here.

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