Major funding for state-of-the-art technology at Bircham Newton college

Josh Missin. Photo: SUBMITTED.
Josh Missin. Photo: SUBMITTED.

A major investment has been made into revolutionary technology at a college in West Norfolk.

The Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) has made the investment to help train the next generation of plant operators at CITB’s National Construction College in Bircham Newton.

The £1.2million funding has seen 16 state-of-the-art plant simulators move into the college.

CITB contributed £700,000 for the facility, which is the first of its kind in the UK, with £450,000 of funding coming from the Greater Cambridge Greater Peterborough Local Enterprise Partnership.

The simulators will be used to train apprentices and trainees in a wide-range of plant machinery, including excavators, cranes, crawler dozers, telehandlers, tractors and dumper trucks.

CITB plans to use this technology to train people for an even wider range of jobs in the future.

The simulators, which provide a unique immersive experience for learners, give trainees a chance to try out what the equipment is like before using the real thing.

This helps provide a life-like experience, while minimising health and safety risks.

The simulators also electronically record progress and analyse how learners behave in different scenarios.

Graham McPhail, head of education and training at CITB, said: “This is the first large-scale investment into plant simulator technology anywhere in the UK.

“New methods of technology are playing an increasingly important role in construction and this investment will help us modernise the way we train.

“It is really pleasing to see the added value the simulators provide to all our learners. I am very grateful to the LEP for their support in helping this to happen.

“CITB is committed to ensuring the right training is in place to produce the highly-skilled workforce required in our industry.”

The simulators, from CM Labs in Canada and TenStar in Sweden, offer environmental benefits by reducing the amount of carbon emissions associated with traditional plant machinery.

They can demonstrate the adverse effects that different weather and time can have when operating plant – for example changing from day to night, or rain, wind and snow – as well as creating modern construction scenarios that cannot be replicated in a typical real-life training session.

Josh Missin, a 24-year-old plant apprentice from Wisbech who works with plant-hire firm Mervyn Lambert, has been training on the simulators.

He said: “The simulators are great. As someone who had never used any form of plant machinery before, I was quite nervous before doing so.

“However, the simulators allowed me to quickly learn how certain controls worked, which meant I felt much more confident when using the machines in real life.

“They should be used in everyone’s plant apprenticeship training.”