Nuclear power. Rail. Construction. Oil & gas. Aviation. Healthcare. Renewable energy. Defence. Maritime. First responders. What do they have in common? They are all safety-critical sectors requiring highly skilled personnel. And they are all facing rapid, disruptive change in their domains, driven by inexorable digitisation and automation, budget pressures and a multi-generational workforce with differing learning styles.
Thought leaders and subject experts representing these varied industries came together for the first time in a joint forum to examine their shared challenges and to offer each other best-practice solutions in the selection and training of their current and future employees.
The event was the first Simulation, Training and Assessment for Resilience & Safety Symposium (STRS), staged in London by Halldale Group and the European Training and Simulation Association (ETSA), the leading providers of information on training and simulation for high end reliability industries.
“There was a lot of engagement,” said Andy Smith, Halldale Group CEO, “People were enthusiastic.”
“Absolutely fantastic. Much better than we could have expected,” added ETSA President Steve Wilkinson.
Andy Fawkes, former lead for the UK Ministry of Defence’s simulation policy/strategy development, who served as moderator for STRS, said, “I think the experiment worked. We are trying to look across these sectors to help people learn what’s going on elsewhere, to share ideas and foster innovation. It’s been really interesting, more interesting than many other conferences because we had a broad range of industries, more cross-sector. And it wasn’t just technology; we’re looking at the human resources side, delve more into the psychology and science of learning.”
Smith outlined three dilemmas with which all high-skill, high-risk industries are faced:
- Workforce – “We have four different generations in the workforce: boomers, millennials, gen x and gen z, all with different preferences in their learning styles. We are also losing many experienced personnel and need to replace them with a new young, inexperienced group who must perform as well as or better than their predecessors.”
- Cost – “Simply put, the cost of getting it wrong and either wrecking equipment or injuring / killing operators or clients is too high, resulting in possible jail sentences or bankruptcy. Even with less than optimal operations, fuel consumption or high consumable use might well significantly reduce profit / increase cost. Cost of training also needs to be reduced, if possible, while generating a better-trained workforce.”
- Technology – “It is changing all the time and impacts all occupations; it needs to be operated well if it is to return on the investment made.”
“Some industries tend to be very insular. They think, ‘We’ve got our own conferences,’” said Wilkinson. “That’s what we’re trying to break down.”
“If they’ve not been exposed to simulation the way aviation has, it can be difficult for them to grasp the benefits. Hopefully, by raising the profile in these areas we can get people to understand. If they look at things systematically, they will get what they’re required to do the job properly,” Wilkinson added.
He said during lunches and coffee breaks, meeting people he knew, and many he didn’t, “Every single one of them said it was a brilliant idea to talk about the cross-fertilisation. They sat through the mixture of presentations from the different sectors and picked up snippets from every presentation.”
STRS 2019 Presentation Takeaway Highlights
Following are brief excerpts from a few of the presentations at STRS 2019. “The quality of the abstracts was absolutely phenomenal,” said Wilkinson.
Johannah Randall, Head of Station Operations, HS2 Ltd., the high-speed rail service which is expected to serve more than half of Britain’s population, cautioned, “Even though many Baby Boomers have delayed retirement, many are beginning to leave the workforce and they are taking their knowledge and expertise – leaving a gap that can only be filled by Millennials. Millennials will comprise the majority of the workforce by 2025.”
A National College for High Speed Rail is being established in Birmingham and Doncaster to “attract new talent and train the existing workforce.”
Rusmat Ahmed, Senior Vice President Sales, EMEA, Bohemia Interactive Simulations, said today’s students “prove to be more responsive when ‘doing it’ rather than just ‘reading about it.” (Including PowerPoint and other static media.)
He noted that Gen Z are “digital natives with huge dependency on communications, have a greater reliance upon technology, a different approach to problem solving, and approach risks differently.” They are “individualistic, impatient and with differing levels of attention span, and see greater value in work experience than education.
Nathaniel Cooke, Assistant Fund Manager, Construction Industry Training Board (CITB), said, “Construction has been behind the pack” when it comes to digitisation, owing to “fragmentation, low margins, risk aversion, an image problem, and an aging workforce.”
He detailed the need for digital skills:
- Dispersed work-force, fragmented supply chains – Cloud-based collaborative platforms such as Office 365 or Google G Suite
- Productivity: errors, defects, quality, lost time – Apps to log work, errors & defects that update a cloud-based project plan
- Access to hazardous / remote environments – Drone imagery using AI to stitch a 3D model, compare BIM models and the environment
He said they are “unlocking digital skills for construction” by “equipping organisational leaders to deliver digital change,” creating a commission launched in April with a value of £1,000,000, as well as a new “Digital Competency Framework” procurement exercise in June.
Tyler Gates, Managing Principal at Brightline Interactive and President of the DC Chapter of the VR/AR Association, described readiness as “creating the ability for the individual to build confidence despite chaos in any circumstance.” He advocated for immersive training technologies: “In order to grow larger, we have to find ways to grow smaller. Increased personalization directly leads to the increase in global scalability.”
Captain Helen Heenan, Head CRM Trainer, Flybe, explained that “every day we are encountering and managing scenarios, events and situations for which we have not specifically been trained. This is the first step – encouraging, rather than training, resilience in the workforce – the ability for crew or staff to recognise that they already have the fundamental skill in adapting to changing conditions.”
“What we do need to do is acknowledge and endorse the adaptability that is already happening,” she emphasised. “The industries and environments we operate in already naturally provide us with the continual variations required to demonstrate our adaptive capabilities. Thus a staff member who is made aware of, and have validated, their individual strengths in ‘normal’ situations, will be more confident in dealing with the abnormal and untrained situations. In short, they become more resilient.”
Christina Lanham, Managing Director, ITI UK, presented a VR Crane Operator Practical Exam Study in Woodland, Washington annd Houston, Texas during the past year. The study was designed to explore the feasibility of using Virtual Reality (VR) simulators as part of an ANSI-accredited crane operator certification program. VR desktop simulators were programmed to match each crane type’s user interface, physics and dynamics.
The central question: whether or not a candidate’s performance on a VR simulator could be considered equivalent to performance on an actual crane. The initial results suggest “we can predict Pass | Fail Decision Consistency with up to 95% accuracy!”
Pablo Herrero Yohn, Digital Transformation Analyst, VR, AR, MR Developer, Sopra Steria & Javier Antona Arias, Tecnatom, addressing nuclear power plant training, said Industry 4.0, “the fourth industrial revolution,” represents “a change in the way of organizing productive means consisting of the introduction of digital technologies in industry. Industrial Digitalization is a transformation towards the implementation of hyper-connected smart factories where it is possible to access and modify, in real time, the behavior of the different elements that make up the system.”
They said technologies such as mixed reality (MR) enables “operators to experience situations of realistic risks in the first person, improving the perception of risk detection and greater awareness of the consequences thereof.”
Rob Dixon, Director, Pilotwise International Ltd., described “culture” as characterised by the beliefs, values, biases and resultant behaviours … Shared by members of a society, group or organisation … The ‘automatic’ human response to a situation … Mental programming ‒ based on the characteristics of the individual or group.”
Safety, he stated, equals a Safety Culture plus a Safety Management System (SMS).
Karen Moore, Managing Director, Symbiotics, addressed mental well-being of individuals in high-risk roles. She pointed out that “Personality is stable over time, whereas mental health varies from day to day and even hour to hour.” (Sudden severe psychotic episodes are extremely rare.)
“What’s missing?” she asked. “The current mental state.”
She described tests such as MindQ, derived from clinical assessments, which can indicate risk of participant developing symptoms of mental illness. The objective is to “catch people and intervene to prevent.”
Commander Frode Voll Mjelde and CDR Petter Lunde, The Royal Norwegian Naval Academy, stated:“Scenario design matters. We can predict, but to predict well we must design well. The virtual environment must emulate the stressors and behaviors found in the live environment.”
Dr. Wesley T. Bissett, Associate Professor & Director, VET, Texas A&M Veterinary Emergency Team (VET), Texas A&M University, explained how the VET developed a required clinical rotation in veterinary emergency preparedness and response. A major component includes Second Life, a multi-user virtual simulation environment by which VET trains high volume / mass casualty medical triage decision making.
Bissett quoted a responder involved in the 2011 Bastrop, Texas wildfires: “I didn’t learn veterinary medicine that I didn’t already know – I learned so much more; leadership, teamwork, communication, compassion, and having a system.”
Søren Seindal Agner, Owner, Aeroteam, in discussing learning games, said, “Simulation creates a situation where ideas, decisions, or actions can be tried out. Consequences are visible and there is no actual risk.”
Aat Hoorn, Manager Engine Room & High Voltage Simulators, Simwave BV, said “To be resilient, a system needs to be able to respond to events, to monitor ongoing developments, to anticipate future threats and opportunities, and learn from past failures and successes alike. People, as part of the system, should be adaptive, meaning to be able to use strategies to detect, interpret or respond to variations.”
Marco van Sterkenburg, CEO & Co-Founder, Drillster, asked: “Is adaptive learning a good alternative to a yearly recurrent proficiency check?” He advocated “smart repetition” – “Elements that you have not yet fully mastered are repeated more frequently. Each learner follows a personal path to proficiency. When focusing on your personal development areas, you learn more in less time.”
Neil Franklin, Head of Skills Intelligence, National Skills Academy for Rail, explained that the railways typically spend 2-3 training days per person per annum, mostly in compliance training rather skills training – the UK average is 6 days per person “We need to train more, in digital, using digital means,” he declared. “For us the benefits are clear: It’s at least 30% cheaper to train someone using VR / AR / Mixed Reality simulations. There is increased user engagement, a more immersive experience, environmental safety (i.e. we can recreate high risk environments), and reduced levels of operational impact.”
Steve Wilkinson, CEO, HALCYON Training Solution, outlined the best way to develop an optimum, efficient, effective training solution:
- Follow a systematic approach to training
- Define your true training requirements first
- Evaluate the technologies available to meet requirements
- Define which devices you require and which technologies to employ
- Continue to evaluate, update and keep configuration of training solution in line with the operational equipment
- Get buy-in of all stakeholders