The Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) and Construction Wales Innovation Centre (CWIC) have launched a virtual reality experience aimed at aiding construction education for students.
The project stems from ‘Skills on Site’, a CWIC initiative designed to provide interesting and engaging ‘live, on-site’ learning opportunities for students of all ages to support classroom teaching. CWIC has worked with partner colleges across Wales to deliver a range of construction-based training courses to address the specific needs of future skills, gaps in provision and to attract the next generation to consider the industry as a career option.
The course, entitled ‘Construct Your Future’, has been designed in such a way that pupils are able to work towards an end of year ‘Design and Build Project’ as well as achieve a City and Guilds Level 1 Award in Construction Skills, which will provide them with a valuable introduction to the construction industry. They will also have opportunities to be hands-on with some of the essential skills required in the industry and undertake tasks using CAD software and to learn about quantity surveying.
One of these ‘hands-on’ opportunities is a virtual reality programme – using CWIC’s Virtual Built Environment Element Explorer software – which aims to increase the appeal of the construction industry by ‘gamifying’ the construction process. The programme was piloted at Ysgol y Preseli in Ceredigion with year 11 students on Friday 18 March 2021. The software allows learners to explore and experience the construction process by constructing a variety of different buildings virtually, and once complete allows learners to compare the performance sustainability and cost measures built into them.
Laura Clarke, regional manager – Wales at the CIOB, said: “CIOB is very pleased to see new and innovative approaches to engaging young learners, and this collaborative approach by CIOB and CWIC is spearheading cutting-edge ways of bringing the construction industry to life during the pandemic and encouraging young people into the sector.”
Gareth Wyn Evans, manager at CWIC, said: “Collaboration underpins CWIC, and this initiative is another example of how our long-standing strategic relationship with CIOB has delivered yet another innovative solution to drive forward construction education and promote technical and professional roles within the sector.
“For both education and the construction industry, immersive and remote training is engaging, cost-effective, and safe. It also provides trainees with the true to life experience not currently possible. While covid has limited our access to live working environments, VR, particularly through the CONVERT project, has enabled learners to test ideas, components and features before committing them for construction, where previously they may have only encountered the subject in textbooks and online presentations.
“By exploring, gaining familiarity with, and practising in, our simulated environment, knowledge, skills can be gained without any interruption of real-world consequences. This was particularly evident on Friday, where learners took part in a virtual site visit and took advice, guidance and recommendations from industry experts within the CIOB Wales Hub.”
Huw Thomas, curriculum leader at Coleg Ceredigion, said: “It was such a privilege to be part of the Virtual Skills Platform launch, the technology was brilliant. CWIC and CIOB very kindly decided that the Ysgol y Preseli Year 11 pupils would be the first cohort to test and use this exciting platform. We’re very fortunate as a college to have built and maintained such vital links with professional institutions, and seeing these events directly benefit the learners we teach as a college is just amazing.
“We have also built great relationships with key businesses in the local area, and to have Wyn Harries Design and Management involved in the event and providing key insights throughout the day added to the overall success of the event. The Ysgol y Preseli Year 11 cohort are studying towards the WJEC Planning and Maintaining the built environment qualification though our School link programme. This event will benefit them greatly towards the upcoming assessments in May 2021.”