The recent Skills, Employment and Education Strategy (SEE) document released by HS2 Ltd in October 2018 (https://www.hs2.org.uk/documents/hs2-skills-employment-and-education-strategy/) highlights the critical importance that HS2 will bring to the UK’s infrastructure portfolio, and the vital role that the scheme plays in educating and training the infrastructure and rail workforce in opening up new opportunities.
HS2 and the National College for High Speed Rail (NCHSR) share a common vision – to embrace future technology and to enable tomorrow’s workforce today. Their approach to training focuses on two key areas – how can we deploy tomorrow’s technology today and how do we make the training relevant and engaging?
Here at PAULEY we as industry leaders also share this vision and have been pioneering the use of Mixed Reality Technologies across the rail industry and beyond – setting the standard for future training. We have been changing the face of digital training for railway apprentices and engineers for nearly 5 years and demonstrate how the future of learning in the railway industry is through immersive technologies. Immersive technologies are becoming more affordable, and represent a paradigm shift in how vital technical training can be undertaken in an innovate way that offers students and delegates the opportunity to explore technically challenging scenarios first-hand without the need for expensive and sometimes dangerous equipment. There is a further fundamental point to learning this way – adopting real time data visualisation enables more effective communication with delivery teams and front-line workers, supporting higher safety and productivity levels.
HS2 will be the new high-speed backbone of Britain’s rail network, but it’s much more than just a railway. It is a catalyst for growth: revitalising the country, creating new opportunities for jobs and skills, regenerating towns and cities, and bringing us all closer as a nation.
The employment and economic potential of the HS2 Programme, with an initial opportunity to upskill the UK’s construction workforce, followed by the creation of employment opportunities generated once the railway is operational, is huge. There is a real focus on promoting increased skills and employment via the supply chain to address the skills challenges faced not only by HS2 but also in the wider transport infrastructure sector.
Part of the solution lies in the establishment of the National College for High Speed Rail (NCHSR), which opened in Birmingham and Doncaster in September 2017. The NCHSR provides an industry-led curriculum, delivering the highly skilled workforce needed to deliver the HS2 Programme and the future skills required by the UK’s rail industry. The College acts as a flagship facility for training in the railway industry, helping to attract, educate and train the talent needed by the sector. Learning is strongly focussed on practical teaching, with internal and external workshop, virtual and augmented reality and employer-based work placements.
One of the main safety challenges faced by students is limited access to an operational railway and trackside equipment, especially as it’s dangerous for them to be alongside or on live track or engineering projects without the necessary training, or competencies. In addition, the lecturers of the NCHSR wanted a way to bring the railway into the college, so students could visually see and understand through 3D digital assets, immersive Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality experiences.
This is where PAULEY really excels and is the reason we were selected to work with NCHSR.
For the past 6 months we have been helping the NCHSR improve and augment their teaching material to fit the current generation’s media consumption habits. Producing a range of training modules using innovative technology such as AR HoloLens headsets, and VR headsets such as the Oculus Rift, our clear aim has been to help the next generation of rail workers learn the modern practises in ways that are as immersive and interesting as possible.
The creation of 3D rail scenes and components aligned to the development of a highly intuitive and immersive Augmented Reality application has enabled students to explore various rail elements and individual components of conventional and high-speed rail. In turn this has enabled them to learn where the componentry is used in the field, what it looks like and listen to the voice-over that provides the learning element of what each component is used for.
The end result is content that is far more interesting and engaging for the end user, which is extremely important in this industry where an untrained professional could lead to security, health and financial risks. By working in this way PAULEY are able to assist HS2, NCHSR and many other clients with achieving their vision of enabling tomorrow’s workforce today.
Through engaging students with interactive digital assets, the NCHSR and PAULEY have increased the motivation for them to learn. Previous learning assets were simple 2D black and white line drawings and emerging them in a virtual environment and allowing them to learn at their own pace only increases knowledge retention through learning by doing.
Our previous blogs have espoused the need to train new students, in new skills in a new way, that engages, excites and most of all, inspires. What PAULEY are doing with the NCHSR is putting that theory into practice. By creating a new cohort of infrastructure workers, learning in ways that are truly immersive, PAULEY are supporting HS2 and the UK infrastructure sector meet it’s challenges head on.