Investing in Digital Futures

January 2020

Change at any pace in any sector requires agility, an open mind, patience and funding. Through CITB’s investment in developing new technologies, we hope to help better prepare organisations to future-proof their businesses, grow their talent pool and train and upskill their existing workforce.

Laying the groundwork for industry innovation

CITB’s Immersive Learning commission is funding seven projects – to the tune of £3.15 million – and is already having an impact in terms of learning outcomes and retention rates.

The projects were chosen not only for their forward-thinking approaches to learning but because of their potential for industry-wide adoption. With senior leaders in the sector unsure of how to integrate new technologies to complement their training strategies, it was important for CITB to fund projects that could demonstrate the ease of integration.

Marcus Bennett, who heads up future skills and innovation at CITB, says the diversity of the projects funded means the investment will achieve a range of short- and long-term benefits for industry.

“We are piloting dozens of modules of training across a range of skills areas, so we should get a good understanding of what works well in what situations. Early pilots are getting lots of positive feedback, and with months still to go the commission is already delivering training that will be benefiting employers.”

Construction Wales Innovation Centre’s CONVERT project will establish immersive learning training for the industry in a sustainable and scalable way, via six delivery hubs across England, Scotland and Wales. Bennett says CONVERT is an example of CITB creating and funding projects to positively impact the industry – now and in the future:

“We are really positive about what CONVERT offers in establishing accessible hubs, equipped with the latest equipment, software and training modules. We’re providing a low-risk, low-cost way for senior leaders and training managers to try out these new technologies and decide how these developments fit into their training strategies.”

We’re investing to help the industry save

The cost-saving incentives for developing programmes that don’t require employees to leave construction sites are encouraging. We are reducing teaching time and improving retention by providing initial training that doesn’t require the physical equipment or to necessarily be on site. This also means reduced risk in training with individuals being able to prepare in risk free environments.

BAM Nuttall’s project will use handheld tablets to reduce teaching time and improve memory retention for behavioural induction training onto highway construction sites. Imagine: highway construction teams, technology in hand, surveying risks and health-and-safety hazards in real time through content that covers topics like access and egress, exclusion zones, people plant and scaffolding.

Susan Fletcher, Skills Manager at BAM Nuttall, says initial field testing has already proved to be positive:

“We were very keen to explore new ways of delivering these important site inductions. With this software and these tablets, we’re now able to bring individuals out of a classroom environment to deliver an immersive, engaging and comprehensive site induction. Importantly, the coursework, content and training is delivered in the languages most spoken onsite, which means a more inclusive induction that leaves no one behind.”

Marcus Bennett readily admits that immersive learning and new technologies won’t be for everyone and don’t offer an answer to every problem – but often nor do traditional training techniques. There are, he says, “so many great examples of the industry leading from the front. Part of our job at CITB is to be willing to fund innovations that have the potential to help construction modernise; to take a risk that wouldn’t be possible for a typical SME in the supply chain and demonstrate the value of adopting new ways of doing things.”

“Part of our job at CITB is to be willing to fund innovations that have the potential to help construction modernise; to take a risk that wouldn’t be possible for a typical SME in the supply chain and demonstrate the value of adopting new ways of doing things.”

Marcus Bennett

Future Skills and Innovation, CITB

Preparing the workforce of the future

The commission responds to CITB research that highlighted that immersive learning represented a key enabler for construction to modernise training. The research asserted the potential to help attract more younger, digitally native people into the workforce, and to help open up ways of training more people, to a higher level, more quickly, with that knowledge being better retained.

Lance Chatfield, leading City College Plymouth’s project, says that ‘generation alpha’ students “don’t benefit from a traditional learning environment” and this has been proven by the introduction of using VR for site inductions, that has seen a significant improvement of a 400% increase in retention rates.

Some of the construction organisations involved in the commission include:

Bylor; Berkeley Group PLC; Morgan Sindall; BAM Nuttall; Balfour Beatty; CIOB; CECA; Bouygues; Galliford Try; Interserve; Lovell; Kier Living; Willmott Dixon; VolkerWessels UK; McAvoy Group; Skanska; Laing O’Rourke; Aecom; and Legal & General Homes.

Related Articles