According to Network Rail, the mid-2030s will see an extra one billion journeys made on the railway. How can digital training and cutting-edge immersive technologies help the rail industry keep on track?
The Digital Railway programme touches nearly all aspects of the railway, and at PAULEY, we know that the railway’s key focus must be on its people. Changes to the way the workforce go about their daily jobs needs careful consideration and planning, and it’s essential that people must be trained effectively and efficiently, as and when they need it.
Towards a Digital Railway Academy?
In the rail sector and in every other industry, there is a pressing need for a greater volume of staff with higher-level skills. Upskilling the rail workforce is both essential and urgent. Hence, the idea of a Digital Railway Academy is one that the industry is getting serious about. The key to success? The method of delivering digital training, not the location. Forget shiny new buildings. What’s needed is a fully ‘virtual’ academy using a hub and spoke model, utilising existing facilities (Signals, Control Systems, Traction & Rolling Stock etc), with money invested in great kit (computers, mixed reality, other software) and even more importantly, great teachers. This approach is being pioneered at the National College for High Speed Rail (NCHSR), using our bespoke digital learning technologies.
The Digital Railway programme touches almost every job within the industry, and the premise of a Digital Rail Academy is that the digital training can be developed and deployed centrally, using common and standardised materials, delivered at a time and a location that suits the learner. Training would be available online, when and where learners need it. The potential is vast. Why stop at technical and engineering subject areas?
The benefits of training through immersive technologies
Conventional classroom-based learning is best-suited to only a small percentage of people, and evidence shows that learning by rote is not an effective way to ingrain new knowledge. Immersive learning is an excellent way for the rail industry to meet demand.
A recent Harvard Business Review reported that immersive technologies and mixed reality will “reshape the way employees work and make them more productive by enabling them to work across physical and digital boundaries and to interact with digital content in new ways.” Their survey found that more than two-thirds (68%) of respondents believe mixed reality is important to achieving their companies’ strategic goals in the next 18 months, with training and educating employees topping of the list of uses.
Training with immersive technologies:
- Utilises interactivity to boost engagement and consolidate learning.
- Encourages a personalised, more relevant experience for each learner and puts users in control of their training to increase levels of participation.
- Merges digital and physical environments and tools for a more fulfilling learning experience.
- Puts information into context and make data easily accessible and transferrable.
- Offers ways to train workers for hard to reach, dangerous or costly real-life situations.
- Drive a knock-on increase in digital skills by learning with digital and cutting-edge technologies.
Putting people first
Upskilling rail workers now could also avoid implementing automation – an expensive endeavour and a growing fear for employees. Younger workers are more concerned about automation than any other group, with just under half of workers aged between 16 and 35 fearing for their jobs in the next 10 years. Anxieties about automation are heavily focused in London, where 46% of workers worry about robots – more than anywhere else in the UK.
An article in the Independent on 10th April 2018 stated: “UK employers are failing to prepare their staff for the impact automation will have in the workplace. A third of workers feel that their job will be automated within the next decade, while one in 10 fear they will lose their jobs to automation within two years, according to payroll firm ADP. Half of those who feel they are at risk because of automation say their employer has yet to reskill them.”
“Automation may seem like an issue for future generations, but our findings show that machines could replace thousands of employees in as few as five years,” says Jeff Phipps, managing director at ADP UK. “But by starting to upskill and retrain workers now, employers can ensure they and their employees are as ready as possible to work side-by-side with the machines.”
Digital signalling follows suit
Digitisation is also soaring in importance beyond the sphere of learning and training. It’s widely accepted that as a nation, we will never be able to build enough tracks and platforms to meet the growing capacity challenge in the traditional way. Although the 10% increase in train services over the next two years will help – by 2021 there will be 6,400 new train services across the country – digitisation is vital.
The Digital Railway programme is investing in digital signalling alongside traditional upgrades. This will allow more trains to run, enhance safety, and improve performance and reliability. In addition, new digital technology will enhance safety through automatic train protection (emergency brakes) and better traffic management on selected routes.
PAULEY has long since recognised the need to do two key things:
- train people in digital technology
- train them in a digital way.
Whether using hardware or software, we can help the rail industry become world leading in the way we educate and train our workforce, using digital methods that stimulate and involve.
Get in touch today to arrange a free demonstration and consultation!