The Construction Industry Training Board has spent £1.2m on 16 plant simulators, in order to fill the operator skills gap.
The investment is part of a wider challenge to find 5000 new plant operators over the next five years.
Trainees and apprentices will be able to test drive excavators, cranes, crawler dozers, telehandlers, tractors, and dumper trucks amongst the wide range of plant machinery.
The simulators have been set up in a dedicated virtual training centre, the National Construction College in Bircham Newton, Norfolk, and were made in Sweden and Canada.
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.”
Not only can trainees experience the machinery virtually to gain some practice and familiarity, they can also experience them in all weather conditions. The simulators minimise health and safety risks before a trainee moves onto real machines.
The machines record and analyse how users behave in different situations, and therefore can be helpful in tailoring help to individual needs.
Josh Missin, a 24-year-old plant apprentice from Wisbech, was one of the first to train on the new simulators. He said: “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 machines in real life.”
Mr Missin believes that they should be used in everyone’s plant apprenticeship training.