From this 24dash.com article : "The macho world of construction isn’t the most obvious place to look for a new approach to people skills training. Yet ‘soft skills’ such as the ability to communicate clearly and inspire a team are as critical to the success of any building project as technical expertise.
A new construction training centre – the ACT-UK Simulation Centre - set to open in Coventry in September 2009 will help construction managers develop their people management skills and enable them to fully develop their potential through a pioneering combination of virtual reality computer techniques and the use of professional actors. The ACT-UK Simulation Centre is backed by the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) and leading construction companies, including Balfour Beatty.
The centre is the first of its kind in the UK and has been developed by the team which opened the world’s first construction virtual reality training centre – the BMSC (Building Management Simulation Centre) at Leeuwarden in the Netherlands ten years ago. The Leeuwarden centre has transformed the Dutch construction industry’s approach to training and is used by more than 360 Dutch firms because of the programme’s success in identifying and developing managers’ individual talents.
“Managing a construction project is hugely challenging,” says ACT-UK managing director Michiel Schrijver. “Alongside technical knowledge of the build process, site managers need excellent people skills in order to manage subcontractors and other site staff. In addition, they have to work with clients, other consultants who might be involved in the project, such as architects as well as handling relationships with residents and the local community. Having the ability to interact effectively with all these different people is essential to completing a project on time and in budget.”
The simulation concept is based on an idea from maritime simulation training and has similarities with the aviation simulators used to train airline pilots although the ACT-UK system is more about human interaction.
The training facility will recreate, in precise detail, an actual construction site using virtual reality. The three-dimensional computer simulation of the construction project is projected on to a 12-metre panoramic screen in the Simulation Centre. Trainees use a control stick to ‘walk round’ the site and view the construction work in close-up, down to individual nuts and bolts.
Trainees work in fully-equipped site cabins of the kind found on any building site. They are then presented with challenging site management scenarios – based on real-life situations – with site personnel, colleagues, and members of the public played by professional actors. Supervisors observe their behaviour via cameras and then work with trainees to give feedback and pinpoint areas for development.
“The simulated scenarios are all based on the kind of situation that site managers regularly face, such as having to lay off a member of staff, talk to an angry resident or reason with a subcontractor threatening to walk off the job,” says ACT-UK managing director Michiel Schrijver. “The depth and detail of the simulation means that the experience goes beyond mere role playing and allows trainees to test themselves fully in a safe, controlled environment. We find that people very quickly forget they are taking part in a simulation because they become so wrapped up in the experience.”
For leading construction company Balfour Beatty, one of the companies which is currently working with ACT-UK to develop courses that will be run at the new centre, it is the realism of the environment created by the simulation and the training scenarios that is one of the centre’s main attractions. “The situations typical of a site encourage ‘natural’ behaviours under realistic pressures which can be observed, fed back and commented on, with alternative ways of handling situations explained and even tried in second attempts at the scenario,” says Jeff Keer, group training and development manager for Balfour Beatty. He believes the centre could prove especially valuable for people who find it difficult to relate the experience of being on a training course to their normal working environment.
The centre has already sold nearly 800 course days to UK construction companies and training organisations. The centre’s potential to enable companies to develop and uncover the talent of their people is also attracting interest from other industries, including companies in the transport and building services sectors."