Tobii Pro is currently involved in a three-year eye tracking study which aims to reduce the skills gap and labor shortage affecting the Swedish metal industry. The project is called ‘Få ett öga för stålarbete (FÖSA)’ which means ‘Get an eye for steel work’.
The project is examining multiple facets of the steel industry in a bid to improve education, training, and certification. The initiative has arisen due to a skills shortage within the industry which is putting increasing pressure on companies to quickly train staff and retain the valuable knowledge held by experienced workers who may be preparing to exit the workforce. There is also a need to overcome language barriers associated with hiring foreign or newly migrated workers. Using eye tracking, Tobii Pro will be examining the visual attention of workers to tap into intrinsic and subconscious behaviors and harness tacit knowledge relating to key skills.
“The lack of adequately skilled workers is perhaps the biggest limiting factor for growth in the Swedish metal industry….If we can solve the problem of being able to quickly and efficiently transfer knowledge from experienced personnel to new staff it will be incredibly beneficial.”
Nine stakeholders, including Tobii Pro, are part of the project. This includes companies, education providers, and unions.The initiative is being funded by a grant from Vinnova, Sweden’s government agency for innovation, and contributions from participating companies and organizations.
Tobii Pro is collecting eye tracking data from workers at several steel companies over several months. Employees in various roles will be fitted with eye tracking glasses while they complete regular workplace activities. The glasses will record their surrounding environment and data on exactly where their visual attention is focused. Data will be collected from staff with different levels of experience and abilities.
Activities that require a high level of skill can often be difficult to explain, which is why eye tracking can be so valuable. Much of the knowledge needed to do these activities well is acquired over time and becomes implicit, meaning it’s almost impossible explain to someone. Eye tracking allows us to tap into the visual attention of a worker and see things literally from their perspective. It accurately captures their visual attention and elements of their behavior that are instinctive or subconscious. This information can be used to identify methods of best practice and create learning material for new staff based on this valuable knowledge. Because it’s not language dependent, it overcomes many of the barriers attached to verbal or written instructions.
The project will be carried out in three phases.
During phase 1 we will use eye tracking to examine expert and novice performance while completing the same tasks and gather data for analysis.
During phase 2 we will use this information to develop training materials based on methods of best practice obtained from the experts to help workers acquire new skills more efficiently. We will also develop methods of skills assesment using the same tools to check if workers have the necessary competency levels.
During phase 3 we will assess how effective this has been and attempt to quantify the improvements in training time and competency levels.