Virtual reality to prepare Māori for construction mahi

By Jessica Tyson

Construction businesses have announced they will start using virtual reality technology to prepare people for jobs in the industry, in partnership with the Ministry of Social Development (MSD).

Employment Minister Willie Jackson and Minister for Social Development Carmel Sepuloni say the pilot programme will address the shortage of staff working in construction and help decrease unemployment rates for Māori.

Jackson says the unemployment rate for Māori is 7.7 percent, the lowest it has been in years.  However, he says there’s a long way to go and getting rangatahi into the workforce is a priority "so we have to have innovative new strategies for rangatahi all the time".

“This is the right strategy to encourage youth because they are familiar with using virtual reality,” says Jackson.

The tool will help people with limited numeracy and literacy skills who respond well to learning through gamification.

“That will allow us to upskill and prepare more New Zealanders for employment," Sepuloni says.

Joy Business Academy is an organisation which helped develop the technology.  Founder James Coddington says it will teach a range of skills to trainees.

“Learning how to operate an excavator, also how to operate a truck and those two have to work together in a collaborative sense to be able to solve their problem," he says, “And while they’re doing that they're being assessed.”

The technology will also make it faster for people to learn new skills.

“Normally it takes five to seven days for somebody who is wanting to get into the construction industry and we're able to shorten that down to 45 minutes,” says Coddington.

The technology will be available to people living in rural areas.

“More Māori live in rural areas and so this gives us the opportunity to take the training out of the urban centres and spread it across the country,” says Sepuloni.

The pilot will start in September and will be rolled out to more industry partners and MSD service centres in due course.

The industry partners include Civil Contractors New Zealand, Prefab NZ, Downer, HEB, Evolution Road Services, Fulton Hogan, Wilson Earthmoving Group, Fletcher Living, Construction Health and Safety New Zealand and Concision.