man using VR headset in a factory

Siemens is addressing electrical contractor shortages and training

By: Barry Powell, North American Head of Siemens Electrical Products and Business

I’m proud to announce Siemens was recently named IEC’s “Official Partner for Electrical Contractors, Home Builders and Owners.” We are excited for this partnership because there are serious challenges related to productivity and the shortage of skilled workers that threaten to put a damper on business growth for contractors. Skilled labor shortages are having a chilling effect on the construction market.

 

A survey of 305 electrical contractors conducted by Construction World came to similar conclusions. Respondents said one of the top five challenges facing the industry is improving the productivity of the labor force. Siemens is taking a leadership role in the industry, addressing this challenge with training and educational programs, designed to make life easier and more profitable for channel partners and their customers—electrical contractors.

 

With a shortage of qualified electricians and retirement looming for many in this field, it is now time for the electrical construction industry to begin the search for new talent. Siemens sees this opportunity as a reason to be proactive and stay ahead of the game when it comes to developing the workforce. That is why we’ve created SIschool—a learning and education program that partners with trade organizations, technical schools, community colleges, wholesale distribution, and electrical contracting firms. SIschool currently has over 30 partners in 25 states. The goal of SIschool is to expose students, apprentices, and instructors to electrical distribution equipment in the early stages of their careers.

With a shortage of qualified electricians and retirement looming for many in this field, it is now time for the electrical construction industry to begin the search for new talent. Siemens sees this opportunity as a reason to be proactive and stay ahead of the game when it comes to developing the workforce.

Siemens also sees more digital natives entering the trades, so we designed a training platform centered around virtual reality (VR) technology. Some training programs, materials, and hands-on instruction for electrical contractors, specifying engineers, architects, designers, and distributors across the country are both time consuming and expensive. Subject matter experts and instructors must fly out to multiple locations, there is no way to ensure consistency in what information is being shared, and it takes vast amounts of time to organize and facilitate the training sessions.

 

These VR experiences will allow the user to assemble, install, and learn about Siemens solutions anywhere and at any time. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then VR is worth a million as experiential learning practices allow for hands-on training without the fear of failure or consequence. In developing VR training, we hope to create a revolutionary approach that is easy to administer, inexpensive, and more effective—especially for students currently learning in a classroom.

 

With VR technology, students can install and assemble power distribution equipment and learn important safety protocols around arc flash mitigation. Matt Allread, Education Manager at Gaylor Electric, Inc. says: “In such a volatile industry, it has been refreshing to find such a like-minded, innovative, partner willing to directly attack the ever-growing issue of how to both safely and efficiently train a non-skilled workforce to be as proficient as possible, as rapidly as possible. Siemens VR training platform is that solution. It allows us to give non-skilled workers repetitive guided training in a simulated environment without the real-world consequences—potential injury, poor quality, or customer asset damage—inherent of traditional training methods. This is what the future of construction industry training and retention will look like.”

 

The training journey is an ever evolving one considering the Great Resignation that we are being faced with recently. We hope by equipping our current employees and the next generation with the proper skills, that we will not only maintain our workers but attract new ones.

Published: March 14, 2022