P.E.I. newcomers using virtual reality to learn trade skills

Some highly skilled newcomers are heading to class on P.E.I. to bring their trades training up to Canadian standards.

The Construction Association of P.E.I. is working with 60 newcomers over the next 30 months — and they are using some unique technology to do it.

Most of the newcomers in this class worked as architects and engineers in their home countries. The program will make sure they’re familiar with Canadian building codes — and virtual reality training is part of that.

“This program has been good, we get to know about many trades,” said Jose Nirmal, from India.

“I know pipe fitting because I worked in firefighting. So, it’s much easier for me to get a red seal in plumbing I think.”

Jose Nirmal says he hopes to find a trades job on P.E.I. when he is finished his training. (Tony Davis/CBC)

After Nirmal finishes up the program he said he plans to apprentice with a company on P.E.I.

“Finding a job as a newcomer without any credentials here in Canada is very difficult,” Nirmal said. 

“So, this will help me get a job hopefully.”

‘The whole idea is to help the newcomers become more familiar and more aware of, you know, the construction industry and the opportunities here in P.E.I.,’ says Sam Sanderson, general manager of the Construction Association of P.E.I. (Tony Davis/CBC)

Unique training program

This is the first time the association has used virtual reality in its training.

“As far as we know we are the first construction association in Canada to be offering virtual reality training. So, this is very new, very exciting,” said Sam Sanderson, general manager of the association.

“The whole idea is to help the newcomers become more familiar and more aware of, you know, the construction industry and the opportunities here in P.E.I. and have their credentials recognized along the way.”

Mohammad Abdul Iz worked as a civil engineer in Syria and hopes to do the same job on P.E.I. one day. (Tony Davis/CBC)

The virtual reality training helps students get a feel for what trade jobs will look like during COVID-19, he said.

Mohammad Abdul Iz worked as a civil engineer in his home country of Syria. He is hoping to eventually be able to do the same work here on the Island.

“I miss my job,” he said. “I enjoy every minute of this program. It adds a lot for me.”

‘I really think that maybe this program will bridge the gap,’ says Xing Zhao. (Tony Davis)

Xing Zhao came to Canada from China in 2014. He first lived in Toronto and worked in the automotive sector before moving to the Island in 2017.

He said he was excited to try virtual reality training.

“Kind of like a video game but in a real work situation,” he said, adding training overall has been going well.

“We learned first aid and CPR the past two weeks and a refresher of trades math,” he said.

He said looking for a job as a newcomer is difficult, but he thinks the program will help “bridge the gap.”

Students will do eight weeks of in-class training. They are then followed up on for the next 30 months while working on P.E.I. job sites.

The federal government is covering the $800,000 cost of the training program.

More from CBC P.E.I.

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