The global economy is showing encouraging signs of recovery, thus a new chapter begins to be written whilst closing the previous chapter on recession. Although there are signs of improvement, unemployment remains high across Europe, but when looking at manufacturing, contrary to the general trend, one sees strong evidence of skill shortage. There are simply not enough people to fill in the jobs and the war for talent is rampart as the industry scrambles to find qualified personnel to fill their vacancies, stealing from anywhere possible (eg: Norway, as a country, went “shopping” for 5000 engineers to Portugal by asking the Portuguese engineering society in 2013). In fact, most agree that it will not disappear or even improve with the economy recovery, but rather the common agreement is that the problem will only escalate and get worst as the economy recovers.
Even though it is difficult to pinpoint the cause for the skill shortage in the manufacturing industry, all stakeholders agree that a fundamental root problem is the predominant mental picture people in the general public have of manufacturing. The anecdotal evidence demonstrates that the common perception remains stuck in the era of the industrial revolution where factories were men-dominant, dirty, dangerous and unhealthy work environments where cheap labour was necessary to carry out the menial tasks. The current reality of the factories-of-the-future is a sharp contrast, where the shopfloor has become much cleaner, safer and human centred supported by ICT. As technology evolves, so does the demand increase for highly talented individuals.
The use of serious games in manufacturing contributes to the training of individuals, but their usage is not confined to competence development and knowledge acquisition. One can use serious games for raising the awareness of individuals about the true picture of what manufacturing entails. An example of such a serious game is EcoFactory, which targets 9-12 year olds and aims to shift their perception of sustainability in manufacturing. The purpose is not to ensure any learning, neither to facilitate knowledge acquisition, but rather to generate awareness of what sustainable manufacturing consists of and in the process give insights into what factories of the future is. In the game, the player needs to make decisions on what product to manufacture and what technology to use. Each choice has an impact on cost, environment and society, with no ideal solution.