Change is a constant in the construction industry, which is why Continuing Professional Development (CPD) is a must.
In some states, including New South Wales and Tasmania, it is mandatory for registered builders. Currently, Victoria is also reviewing whether to make it mandatory for key trades.
However, even when not mandated, industry experts believe there is value in CPD for everyone involved in project delivery. Builders Academy Australia, for example, highlights the importance of CPD for staying up-to-date on regulatory changes, such as new parts of the National Construction Code, updates to contract law, or new OHS regulations.
CPD can also ensure continual improvement of performance on-site as well as achieving best practice.
New technologies could offer the construction industry novel ways to upskill and engage everyone involved in project delivery.
Tigertail, training, risk management and crisis management specialists, offer leading-edge virtual-reality enhanced training for emergency services and law enforcement. The company’s Managing Director, Rick Stone, tells Jobsite ANZ these approaches could have value for construction.
The XVR training product has been tailored for the needs of fire, ambulance and police personnel, he explains. It enables participants’ immersion in an environment to recognise and respond to visual cues. It also gives them some experience in case of rare but demanding events that workers need to be prepared for, such as a mass casualty incident or major fire emergency.
Stone says VR training is becoming increasingly more innovative. At Deakin University, for example, new VR-enabled approaches are being developed to give users the actual physical experience of the “kick” they would get when operating a high-pressure fire hose.
There are some skills that can’t be taught as effectively using VR, though. Stone notes that for working at heights training, the best approach is still to put participants in appropriate safety gear. For instance, you can put them in a climbing harness and “hook them up” so they gain the kinaesthetic and kinetic experience required.
Unfortunately, the cost barrier for current VR training products is still an issue for the construction industry. Considering current prices, Stone says, a company needs to have a substantial throughput and turnover to afford them.
Therefore, main organisations likely to be providing this type of training are institutions like TAFE. Stone does note that in the future, as we see greater uptake of VR, the costs are likely to come down.
Training is a Valuable Investment
Overall, while he says there is a “crying need” for people in the building industry to be well trained, one of the issues is the training can often be perceived as “boring.”
There’s also the misconception that training is an expense; companies should think of rather as an investment.
According to Stone, when considering any training or professional development, businesses need to start by identifying what they want apprentices or employees to be able to do as a result.
One of the key skills valuable for any company or project team is improving everyone’s ability to recognise hazards on the job site.
Ongoing professional development and training can also be seen as a way of getting the best out of people, Stone observes. It can be an exercise in building culture and making ongoing development and betterment “normal.”
Moreover, courses that foster better ways of doing business can also be valuable.
Stone says there has often been a “knee-jerk” approach to training that responds to specific problems or changes in regulatory requirements. When taking a proactive view, however, training can become a way of helping everyone involved in delivering a project to gain an understanding of how their work is an important part of the whole. On this front, there could be a role for upskilling everyone in BIM and creating walk-through VR experiences based on relevant parts of a BIM model for every trade and worker.
Stone suggests it might be most effective to avoid using the word “training” for this kind of initiative. Instead, one may look to gaming and other emerging VR uses for a way of promoting uptake and engagement.
Holding the Line on Quality
The industry also needs to find ways to avoid some of the defect and non-compliance issues that have resulted in high-profile failures, such as Opal Tower. Stone notes that while the industry, including those that worked on Opal, are generally highly proficient with toolbox sessions around known, high-risk activities. Nevertheless, there is sometimes a deficiency around issues that are low risk for workers but high risk in terms of reputation and finished project.
“People need to be vigilant around all the dimensions of risk. That is the whole point of inspections, Quality Assurance processes, sampling and system overviews,”
Stone says. “People will make mistakes; you need to build in systems to catch them early and manage them.”
He says builders need to see value in inspection processes. Instead of perceiving it as fault finding, they should look at it as QA to “stop things falling down.”
If there is one piece of training he would like to see adopted across every site, it is training for supervisors, leading hands in others on “holding the line on quality.” Otherwise, what happens is often what engineers call “normalisation of deviance,” where an “increasing lower quality of work becomes the acceptable standard.”
“The standard you walk past is the standard you accept.”