Gloucester construction skills centre invests in VR tech

Students at the new AccXel construction skills centre in Gloucester can now try their hand at operating full-scale plant machinery from the safety of the classroom, following the installation of new virtual reality (VR) equipment.

The school introduced the VR technology after securing an asset finance funding package from Lloyds Bank.

The investment makes AccXel the only centre in the UK offering VR to young professionals in training.

AccXel was founded by Nicola Bird, the third generation of £80m construction company KW Bell Group, who sought to bridge the skills gap in the industry.

It became the UK’s first co-funded, industry-led construction school when it opened in Cinderford in January.

Nicola said: “One of my main reasons for founding AccXel, was to create bespoke training programmes which better suited the industry.

“My time with KW Bell Group made me realise that traditional apprenticeship schemes don’t offer a comprehensive package of learning and development and wouldn’t be able to support the growth of the industry.”

Nicola says the centre is also working to provide more opportunities for women through apprenticeships, in what is historically a male-dominated sector.

“Being the only woman in the boardroom, I understand the challenges of growing as a professional in a male dominated industry”, she continued.

“Women are vastly underrepresented in construction and currently make up just 11 per cent of the whole industry.

“This is yet another issue we want to work towards solving at AccXel.

“We believe having women represent 15 per cent of our apprentice mix is a strong statement to the industry and we will continue to pioneer and provide equal opportunity to young women across all sector roles.”

It is hoped that the use of virtual reality training simulators on the organisation’s plant operator apprenticeship programme will provide real world recreations of operating plant machinery and provide a safe environment for learners to master their craft.

Image: New “state-of-the-art” VR rigs have been installed at the AccXel Learning Centre in Cinderford (credit: AccXel)

Read next: Edinburgh looks to bridge skills gap with new construction academy

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