Umer Mansoor, CEO of  Construction Helpline, looks at training for electrical engineers as the UK heads into the post-Covid world.   

The engineering sector already had its work cut out to address the widening skills gap and a need to recruit fresh talent, without the impact of a pandemic to contend with. 

With lockdown starting to ease and the government working hard to kick-start the economy, there are now lots of opportunities that will help businesses find and train the staff they need to be successful. 

The summer of funding 

On 8 July the chancellor announced a £111 million funding package that aims to provide young people with access to high quality training and to triple the number of traineeships between 2020 and 2021. The summer economic update has been welcomed and is an opportunity that businesses should not miss out on. 

There has also been an announcement for a £2 billion Kickstart Scheme. It will create thousands of new, fully subsidised six-month work placements for young people aged between 16 and 24 across the country. The scheme is aimed at those who are at risk of long-term unemployment and are currently receiving Universal Credit.  

It is a positive step, with work experience invaluable when it comes to training young people. It gives them a good insight into the working world and allows them to experience real life situations, which they can learn from. It also lets them experience the sector they are interested in working in so that they can decided if it is right for them. 

Capturing student’s imagination 

Attracting talent is no mean feat and gaining interest from students when they are young is key when it comes to encouraging them into the sector. The next generation of workers are digital natives and expect technology to be part of their day job. 

With that in mind it is important that technology is also part of their training. Both Augmented Reality (AR), which offers an interactive experience within the real-world environment and Virtual Reality (VR), which is a simulated experience, are superb training tools. 

Digital Engineering and Magic has developed a virtual reality experience that is used to train electrical engineers. As working with electricity is potentially dangerous and most accidents are due to behavioural issues, developing responses to real-life situations is essential.   

The virtual reality training takes candidates through energy isolation, hazard identification, the correct personal protective equipment, distribution panel operations and premises wiring. 

Immersive learning experiences are attractive, exciting and work well alongside the traditional classroom environment, and it is also beneficial to the electrical industry as a whole, offering a new opportunity for improving health and safety while learning. 

Training technology 

One of the most well known VR experiences is Coventry University’s virtual site simulator. It is used to train site managers and allows students to ‘walk’ through a construction site spotting potential hazards as they go.   

They also provide real life scenarios with actors putting the trainee site managers on the spot. This level of immersion helps to embed learning because of the heightened nature of the lesson.   

The advantages of virtual tools is that they offer alternative learning techniques and a broad range of scenarios. It is a safe way to learn from mistakes that could be dangerous if executed on a real live site.  

Technology improves training outputs  

As well as attracting new talent, technology can help new recruits to learn. Thanks to the coronavirus pandemic there has been a swift shift towards new ways of working and training online.   

There are many online training portals, often split across multiple disciplines. They are a great way of delivering virtual training. Candidates can take their time and learn at their own pace. Many online courses have questions built in to check learning at various points or a selection of tests available to practice on once the learning section is complete.     

By working through these practice tests, it reinforces learning and prepares the individual for the real exam. This testing approach has been shown to help people learn and retain information. 

Embrace technology for training  

The world has embraced technology during lockdown and used it to find new ways of working, learning and communicating. This shift will continue and the electrical sector must follow suit by welcoming and utilising all the various technologies available. 

Technology is the future not just for industry but for training too. Make sure that the sector is not left behind when it comes to attracting the next round of engineers.