Ufi Charitable Trust, a grant-funding body which supports the delivery of adult vocational skills through digital technology, has awarded funding of £125,000 for state of the art 'Internet of Things' (IoT) technology to support workplace training in manufacturing industries.
Ufi is funding South West Wales college, Coleg Sir Gar, who are developing IoT technology in conjunction with manufacturing employers, to allow training resources to be shared around production environments with minimal additional infrastructure, resource or cost requirements.
The project will exploit the peer-to-peer networking capability of mobile devices to screen-cast educational materials to smart display screens around the production environment. Mobile devices will access online resources via Wi-Fi and display directly to local screens anywhere in the workplace. Networked, collaborative learning systems do exist in traditional learning environments, but this project will mean that they can be made mobile and quickly set up wherever they are needed, in the workplace.
The investment is part of Ufi's Manufacturing Skills Fund which will invest £1m in projects that use digital technology to improve how vocational learning is delivered in the manufacturing sector.
The manufacturing industry makes up 45% of all UK exports, and directly employs 2.7 million people in the UK all of whom need regular training to upskill in light of rapid industry developments. However, providing access to training for the workforce in manufacturing sectors presents real business challenges. If training is delivered offsite, it can be costly in terms of resource and productivity while onsite education is tricky to deliver without compromising health and safety, or quality assurance.
Coleg Sir Gar's partnership with Ufi will seek to meet these challenges by developing ad hoc pods for Workplace Learning, powered by IoT technology, which can deliver effective training and support in a range of different workplace scenarios and contexts. The project aims to demonstrate that ad hoc pods can be set up easily and used by employees with basic IT skills to access efficient, cost-effective learning.
Core to all of Ufi's Manufacturing Skills Fund projects are strong partnerships between learning providers and manufacturers. This project will be carried out in partnership with manufacturing companies in the automotive and electronics sectors and the benefits to the companies and to learners will be central to project evaluation. Coleg Sir Gar will use the project to demonstrate that this approach is readily transferable between industry sectors and scalable, with the intention of rolling out the benefit more widely across manufacturing industry in the future.
Commenting on the partnership, Ufi Chief Executive Rebecca Garrod-Waters said: "The project addresses the challenge of delivering cost-effective workplace learning at the point of need. Manufacturing industry operates on a lean, just-in-time basis and we are delighted to be supporting a project that gives businesses and employees access to learning , on-demand, wherever it is needed within the production environment. Flexible and adaptable to different manufacturing environments, the IoT Pods have potential for scale and transferability which will enable a wide range of training resources to be developed for different sectors and workplaces."
Dave Howells, Business Development & Innovation Manager at Coleg Sir Gar said: "Over the last 20 years Coleg Sir Gar have had a very clear focus on utilising technology for the benefit of learners, no matter where they are. Technology has developed rapidly over the past twenty years, and we believe that the next revolution will be the widespread use of the 'internet of things' which will allow us to be even more interconnected and offer more opportunities for learners in locations that are not thought of as natural learning spaces.
For us, the success of this project will be judged by with which the IoT Pods can be set up, their intuitive usability by employees with basic IT skills, and their cost-effectiveness. Our ultimate goal is to deliver employee training and support at the time and place of need in the production environment."