The Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) has made a major investment into revolutionary technology to help train the next generation of plant operators.
The £1.2m funding has seen 16 state of the art plant simulators move into CITB’s National Construction College in Bircham Newton, Norfolk. CITB contributed £700,000, with £450,000 of funding coming from the Greater Cambridge Greater Peterborough Local Enterprise Partnership.
The state-of-the-art facility is the first of its kind in the UK.
The simulators will be used to train apprentices and trainees in a wide-range of plant machinery, including excavators, cranes, crawler dozers, telehandlers, tractors and dumper trucks. CITB plans to use this technology to train people for an even wider range of jobs in the future.
The simulators provide a unique immersive experience for all learners. They give trainees a chance to try out what the equipment is like before using the real thing. This helps provide an incredibly life-like experience, while minimising health and safety risks.
The simulators also electronically record progress and analyse how learners behave in different scenarios.
Graham McPhail, Head of Education and Training at CITB, said: “This is the first large-scale investment into plant simulator technology anywhere in the UK.
“New methods of technology are playing an increasingly important role in construction and this investment will help us modernise the way we train. It is really pleasing to see the added value the simulators provide to all our learners. I am very grateful to the LEP for their support in helping this to happen.
“CITB is committed to ensuring the right training is in place to produce the highly-skilled workforce required in our industry.”
The simulators, from CM Labs in Canada and TenStar in Sweden, offer environmental benefits by reducing the amount of carbon emissions associated with traditional plant machinery.
They can demonstrate the adverse effects that different weather and time can have when operating plant – for example changing from day to night, or rain, wind and snow – as well as creating modern construction scenarios that cannot be replicated in a typical real-life training session.
The investment comes at a time when construction is in need of plant operators. CITB’s latest skills forecast shows strong demand in this area, with almost 5,000 plant operatives required over the next five years.
Laura Welham-Halstead, Head of Communications at the Greater Cambridge Greater Peterborough Local Enterprise Partnership, said: “We are delighted to support the development of this unique training facility in our area.
“Ensuring that we have an appropriately skilled workforce both now and in the future is one of our key priorities, and there is no doubt that this new facility will help us to achieve that goal.”
Josh Missin, a 24-year-old plant apprentice from Wisbech who works with plant-hire firm Mervyn Lambert, has been training on the simulators.
He said: “The simulators are great. As someone who had never used any form of plant machinery before, I was quite nervous before doing so. However, the simulators allowed me to quickly learn how certain controls worked, which meant I felt much more confident when using the machines in real life.
“They are also good when bad weather would stop us from using the real machines, as you don’t feel like you’ve lost a day’s work.
“I would definitely encourage anyone interested in this type of construction to have a go on the simulators. They should be used in everyone’s plant apprenticeship training.”