Nearly 30 per cent of the utilities industry’s workforce will retire before 2023, according to a 2018 IBM report. Non-profit research and development organisation Nysearch decided to investigate learning technology as a solution to closing the skills gap created by this trend, and more efficiently train retirees’ replacements.
Traditional utilities training often consists of classroom lectures followed by skills practice on simulated pipeline configurations, with classes conducted over a number of weeks.
Nysearch partnered with learning solutions provider CraneMorley to look at how Microsoft HoloLens could be used to accelerate the process of fully training new employees, while also improving the effectiveness of their training.
One of the first jobs a new employee undertakes as a trainee is the installation of natural gas meters on the side of a house, which requires more than a day of instructor-led training. As such, Nysearch and CraneMorley decided to use this as a proof of concept (PoC) for the project.
Using Microsoft Dynamics 365 Guides, the project team was able to break down the training into its essential tasks and create step-by-step guidance viewed through the HoloLens headset. By using ‘head up, hands free’ training, users were able to follow the steps and master the assignment – which previously took over a day – within 44 minutes.
After expanding this PoC across the full skills-based curriculum, the HoloLens and Guides application passed with flying colours. The project is now being rolled out by Nysearch, as CraneMorley assists nine of its member companies to adopt the HoloLens and Guides application.
Nysearch and CraneMorley intend to expand their partnership to explore the use of HoloLens and Guides instruction sets outside formal training centres to support on-the-job performance. For example, utilities workers may require additional instruction to complete complex and infrequent procedures without error.
By implementing mixed reality solutions like these, utilities organisations now have the opportunity to close the expected employee skills gap more quickly, while also freeing up instructor time to provide more individual attention to their trainees.
This article was originally published in the Winter 2020 issue of The Record. To get future issues delivered directly to your inbox, sign up for a free subscription.
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