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Skills for the West Midlands: construction training via virtual reality

Local people who are unemployed can acquire the latest construction skills using virtual reality simulators, thanks to training funded by the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA).

The WMCA has joined forces with Solihull College & University Centre, RMF Construction Training Academy and education equipment provider Tenstar Simulation to install four simulators at Solihull College.

This is the first training programme of its kind in the region, designed to train local people in the construction skills needed to help the region build its way out of the COVID-19 economic shutdown.

Andy Street, the Mayor of the West Midlands, said: “It’s great news that we are able to fund training on construction simulators at Solihull College & University Centre, working in partnership with RMF Construction.

“Construction was one of the best-performing sectors before the coronavirus outbreak hit, and we know that large infrastructure projects, such as HS2, will be key to our economic recovery.

“Training local people to operate modern plant is a crucial part of the advanced construction skills that the industry will need over the coming years. The training we are funding will also help make sure that the jobs being created go to local people.”

The WMCA is funding training on the equipment through its Construction Gateway programme, which offers unemployed people free construction training and a guaranteed job interview at the end of the course.

Construction simulators significantly reduce the time needed for training on real machines, meaning the environment will benefit from lower carbon emissions from diesel-powered engines.

The main benefit to local people and the industry is that more learners will be able to learn real-life construction skills, gaining a Level 1 qualification. Then they can move on more rapidly to gain Construction Plant Competence Scheme (CPCS) trained operator cards.

The training is for adults aged 19 and over, particularly people who are unemployed or who are ex-offenders.

Up to 50 residents are currently learning on the simulators in a five-week pilot at the college, which plans to incorporate simulated training into its WMCA-funded construction courses from this September.

Dara McCarthy, operations manager at RMF Construction Training Academy, said: “Although plant operations in large earth-moving and transportation vehicles will always involve an element of risk, learners have previously only been able to gain skills and competence by working on these machines.

“Simulators are a safe way for students to practise and measure their performance in realistic scenarios, while reducing the impact on the environment and damage and wear to real plant.”

Simon Hogg, area sales manager UK at Tenstar Simulation AB, said: “The construction sector is increasingly using more advanced technology, such as GPS systems, in modern plant machinery. Construction simulators mean the industry gains highly skilled plant operators with the skills needed to operate this machinery in the modern construction environment.

“Once users complete the simulated training activity, we are able to produce a report detailing the individual’s performance. This allows us to drill down into finer detail, highlighting areas that may require improvement. This feedback engages the learner and ensures a correction can be implemented over a short period of time.”

To sign up for construction training, contact the National Careers Service West Midlands on 0121 296 5550. Find information about the National Careers Service via https://nationalcareersservice.direct.gov.uk/.

Get links to new job opportunities and online adult education training by visiting the WMCA’s COVID-19 support site at https://beta.wmca.org.uk/what-we-do/covid-19-support/online-resources/.

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