Careers, Construction Equipment

Digital comes to the fore in plant training

Plant operator training is increasingly focusing on machine control and other digital systems
Tenstar training simulators at the Operator Skills Hub
Tenstar training simulators in the Netherlands; the technology will be used at Birmingham’s Operator Skills Hub

With the adoption of digital technology in the plant sector, there has been an explosion in demand for training and upskilling.

Leica Geosystems recently introduced its ‘school with a sandpit’ to train operators, managers, and engineers to use surveying and machine control tools. It even has hidden utilities in a mock-up of a road, grass area and footpath for training in the use of ground penetrating radar. There is a dig area for an excavator equipped with the latest semi-automatic MC1 machine control system and a specialist tiltrotator attachment.

Meanwhile, hirer Plantforce has developed the industry’s first internationally recognised plant operator BTEC level 2 diploma in GPS machine control, which is now being rolled out across the industry.

Plantforce digital plant manager Dale Hawkins has been responsible for its creation: “GPS machine control is not something you can train in a day: it’s a vast subject. You are not just asking operators to follow a satnav in a car; you are asking them to embrace high-tech engineering tools.

Plantforce apprentice Ted Powell using Leica machine control on a Kobelco excavator
Plantforce apprentice Ted Powell using Leica machine control on a Kobelco excavator

“We have been working on this vocational qualification with Weston College for two years, making it available to other training organisations since March.”

Plantforce is also letting its apprentices use top of the range equipment on site. Ted Powell is currently on a major warehouse project operating a Leica Geosystems semi-automatic Kobelco SK210 excavator with SMP tiltrotator.

Another training facility is the Operator Skills Hub in Birmingham, a joint venture between Balfour Beatty and Flannery, which has a bank of three Tenstar simulators.These are helping to train new operators like Jessica Holmes. She swapped a career in the police to become one of its first ‘trailblazer’ apprentices.

Flannery apprentice Jessica Holmes at the new Operator Skills Hub in Birmingham
Flannery apprentice Jessica Holmes at the new Operator Skills Hub in Birmingham

The hub will help train operators for the vast HS2 earthworks operation. Mark Thurston, CEO of HS2 Ltd, says: “The Operator Skills Hub will play a vital role in ensuring local people have the opportunity to upskill in readiness for employment opportunities on Britain’s new railway.”

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