Immersive learning experiences will unlock performance across UK’s nuclear industry

The coming years will see two conflicting themes at play in the UK’s nuclear industry. Firstly, the ‘Great Retirement’ of power stations, decommissioning facilities, and the skilled workers who operated them. And secondly, the ‘Great British Nuclear Renaissance’, prompted by the Energy Security Strategy, which requires tens of thousands of new workers to deliver the baseload gigawatts. To meet the demand for talent, the industry will need to find innovative ways to re-skill existing whilst also hiring and training up new workers.

The sector must avoid falling back on generic methods of training, like utilising ADDIE models and SQEP competency processes. And should think beyond traditional classroom learning offerings, often centered around extensive PowerPoint slides. Outside of the classroom, there are several virtual e-learning tools used to acquire fundamental knowledge. Yet all these methods have serious shortcomings.

In our experience, there is no better substitute to efficiently upskill and train workers than immersive learning.

Immersive learning experiences boost participant engagement, help learners absorb information faster, and retain what they’ve learnt for longer. They also enhance participants’ practical skills without the risk of real-world active errors.

Emerging technologies have a big role to play in enabling immersive learning. The availability of augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) contribute to unlocking the potential of immersive learning experiences – including simulator development. A meta-analysis on the use of VR over a 10-year period showed it has a positive effect on learning gains. And in medical training, surgeons are already practicing operations using VR to replicate real-life healthcare scenarios.

There are three critical ways to ensure the nuclear industry delivers impactful and immersive training solutions that translate into the day-to-day practice of nuclear professionals:

1. Demonstrate how training enables business objectives – it’s an investment, not a cost

Learning and development departments enable business objectives. Before strategies for immersive learning are put in place, training teams need to understand the business requirements. It’s important to truly explore how to invest in long-term training plans and make clear how this contributes to the success of the business. Initial success delivering and communicating measurable outcomes will position the training programmes as an asset to the organization, not a cost.

2. Trial the technology available

Once business stakeholders understand why immersive learning experiences are required, they’re positioned to explore which tools will deliver optimal outcomes.

Facebook’s rebrand of its name to Meta reflects the surge in interest around digital twins, virtual, augmented, and mixed Realities. But too many organisations want to leverage emerging technologies without considering why.

No two organisations are the same. Different industries, teams, and individuals have bespoke needs. Understanding where to invest money in technology is crucial. AR and VR won’t offer a one-size-fits-all solution. Immersive tools and technology should be tested through trial and error, with the everyday flow of the organisation in mind.

If the UK is going to be able to train and deploy the necessary amount of technical nuclear training over the coming years, this is a problem that needs careful consideration.

3. Continue to innovate for the long-term

Next, the strategy of product selection, maintenance, upgrades, and how to scale the technology across an organisation in the long-term should be considered. Once the training team’s purpose is clear, and they have trailed a range of tools, processes can be implemented to deliver ongoing value from immersive training.

These include:

  • Horizon scanning: exploring what emerging products are capable of – particularly beyond their core remits – and how they might solve current or future business problems
  • Proof of concepts: piloted at various stages to take the business on the journey of how a product evolves. Here, Agile methodologies can help
  • Business as usual: an area that is either forgotten about, or rushed by teams, is considering how learning technology and products can be transitioned into everyday business practice for nuclear colleagues.

The nuclear industry need not rely on ‘good enough’ training when exceptional immersive learning standards are attainable, attractive, and indeed vital to keeping the lights on.

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