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UK’s first virtual reality construction training centre opens

The Centre sets a new standard for leadership and management training in the industry, giving site managers the opportunity to deal with demanding lifelike situations and covering issues such as health & safety, waste reduction and team performance.

Advantage West Midlands contributed £6.6 million to fund the centre, which also levered in a further £2.1m from Coventry University Enterprises Ltd, Construction Skills, Learning and Skills Council Coventry and Warwickshire and construction industry private sector investors.

The innovative technology means trainees can ‘fly’ through the virtual construction site, inspecting building work in close detail, giving them an opportunity to make decisions in a safe and controlled environment, supported by individual observation, evaluation and feedback.

The Centre was developed by ACT-UK with expert technical consultation from the construction industry including NHBC, and supported by the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB). It is modelled on the Building Management Simulation Centre in the Netherlands and uses the latest technological advances now available.

In his speech, Sir John Egan, Chancellor of Coventry University and Chairman of the 1998 Construction Task Force and its report, "Rethinking Construction, said:

“Today’s launch shows the determination of the industry to further develop its leadership and professionalism. The immediate capability of the centre is fantastic but its future potential is absolutely huge.”

In his speech, James Wates, President Elect of the Chartered Institute of Building, said: “This is a very special place. I learnt the old fashioned way – on site – but the opportunity here is a much more creative and engaging way of learning that will grasp and attract bright young people into this industry.

“ACT-UK is doing something differently to get something different, which is exactly what this industry needs.”

Clive Benfield, Chairman of ACT-UK, said that the new centre provides a unique capability in the UK for training our future industry managers and helping our current industry mangers to achieve even higher standards in an unrivalled and radical learning environment.

Phil Roberts, Advantage West Midlands Partnerships Director, said the main strength of the simulation centre was the fact that it was industry-led.

“This development meets the demands of the construction industry and allows Coventry and the wider West Midlands region to take the lead in advanced construction training in the UK,” he said.

Michael Brown, CIOB deputy chief executive, said: “Innovation is a vital element in any industry but perhaps none more so than construction – which is an industry that turns ideas into reality. We constantly push the frontiers of knowledge on live projects, whether big firms or small. But it is the people and not the processes that deliver these projects. The CIOB is has no doubt that this centre will attract even better recruits into the industry and equip our workforce to fit the needs of the future.”

Rob Lockey, training services manager at NHBC, said: “This new Centre offers a world-leading approach to training that will reshape the way sites are run. As the UK construction industry emerges from recession, ensuring staff are fully and expertly trained will be a vital part of ramping up productivity and efficiency, to produce low-carbon housing of the future. This new Centre will be invaluable in that process.”

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