In the news: Engineering News Record
Will Adams, emerging technologies developer in our Seattle Office, dives into how virtual reality training programs can help address the construction industry’s ongoing need for qualified, skilled craft professionals in his recent ENR article.
According to Associated Builders and Contractors, the industry faced a significant shortage of more than half a million workers in the last year, with an estimated 1.2 million construction workers planning to leave their jobs to work in other industries. How can we tackle this industry-wide challenge? “A properly designed VR training program can scale up your workforce with labor at a premium.”
To support the development of our workforce, Mortenson created an innovative new Virtual Reality (VR) Quality Training Program to enhance safety, quality, and efficiency on the job site by leveraging new technology in virtual reality training. This training promotes project safety and quality by enabling new field employees to prepare for potential day-to-day challenges before ever setting foot on site.
Our Wind Energy Group has utilized this technology to help new field engineers virtually move through time to understand how to complete complex jobs. This multi-user VR Quality Training program has successfully trained engineers in various settings and locations for the past year, helping them prepare for their role before the pressure of accomplishing tasks correctly under tight timelines is a factor. Through piloting this program, our team has realized the following challenges and opportunities with virtual reality training:
Logistical challenges surround the deployment of a VR quality training program. Timelines for creating these programs depend upon the complexity of the tasks and training. For example, it took our Wind group many months to deploy foundational tools, but once that was done, it became possible to focus on creating the models and drawings for each training environment in a couple of weeks.
Additional logistical challenges include the need to train users unfamiliar with VR headsets, and that headsets may need to be shipped or purchased before training can launch. Thankfully, there is work currently underway by headset manufacturers to make devices more workplace friendly.
Immense opportunity lies where we can capitalize on what VR training can do that other mediums can’t. VR training is excellent at providing a realistic sense of scale and perspective, and the equipment's portability is a key differentiator.
Many tasks we train on are best learned through hands-on experience. Creating a VR environment allows us to train on a simulation of a realistic, life-sized object wherever and whenever we need to. Employees can train in environments that haven’t been built yet or in spaces with many potential hazards and work through scenarios they will encounter in a safe learning space. It also accelerates the speed at which training can be completed and allows for a timeline independent of the current work underway and weather conditions.
A snapshot of the virtual reality environment used to train quality engineers for turbine footing inspections
Further exploring VR quality training can benefit the entire industry through improved quality, better employee training, ensuring workforce safety, and increasing the likelihood that jobs are completed correctly. Mortenson is currently working to roll out new programs across the company, and we are excited to see how others in our industry start to deploy this technology.