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Immersive learning could improve industry's image problem

Daniel Kemp

I’ve written a fair bit in this column about the potential for virtual reality and augmented reality to change the way certain tasks in construction are carried out.

Most recently, I looked at how VR, in particular, could be used for training by helping to transform behaviours, rather than carrying out practical construction-related tasks.

CITB has also been considering this in-depth and has just published a report on the topic, titled A New Reality: Immersive Learning in Construction.

The report takes a closer look at the benefits and challenges of providing immersive learning, arguing that it could boost the industry’s appeal to a new generation of workers, promote collaborative working, produce more ‘work-ready’ employees, and provide more cost-effective training.

I spoke to CITB policy director Steve Radley about the report this week. He told me that the report forms part of a series of work the organisation is doing to research how the industry can modernise, both in terms of how it operates and how it trains its workforce.

“We’ll be doing a lot more of these reports about modernisation and improving productivity, and where appropriate linking in with the CLC’s agenda and aligning with the sector deal,” he says.

At a time when the CITB has been talking extensively to industry to ensure it justifies its ongoing existence, it’s clear that it sees a role for itself in helping to promote the uptake of emerging technologies among contractors, particularly when it comes to their particular area of expertise: training.

“We saw immersive learning as an area with a lot of potential as a different way of training people that might help attract people into the industry,” Mr Radley says.

“Pretending it’s a silver bullet for the industry’s image problems would be naïve, and we’ve clearly got to transform the reality of working in construction as well – but doing training in a way that’s more in tune with how people use technology in the rest of their lives could help.”

CITB is also thinking differently about how it might use its funding, commissioning research and projects that will work towards outcomes that have been agreed with the industry as a high priority. It’s anticipated that this will include work with emerging technologies, like immersive learning.

Construction Leadership Council co-chair Andrew Wolstenholme has written the foreword to this particular report, which is no coincidence. Mr Radley said that CITB wants to “work hand in glove” with the CLC as it prepares to negotiate a sector deal with the government as part of its industrial strategy, and work around innovation and technology will be central to that.

The report also acknowledges some of the barriers to widespread adoption of this technology, noting in particlar the lack of standards and regulations, as well as the potentially prohibitive costs for SMEs – and again, these are things that Mr Radley hopes CITB will be able to influence and help develop.

The sentiments in the report are all in the right place, and it can only be a good thing for the industry if bodies like CITB and the CLC can work more closely together to promote the use of technologies like these.

The full report can be read by clicking here.

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