Virtual training: Ai Group members apply cutting edge innovation

A big impact of COVID-19 has been its effect on attendance at education and training programs. Universities and TAFEs are still largely closed to physical attendance by students and apprentices, and generally companies are not allowing staff to attend training workshops, and not allowing trainers to attend their premises.

What this means for the education and training sector is a big shift towards online delivery, using increasingly sophisticated software. The trend had been established before the pandemic, but implementation has gathered swift momentum over the past couple of months.

Hydac, an Ai Group member that specialises in fluid technology, motion control and automation has partnered with Deakin Motion Lab to develop remote training by using virtual reality (VR). The cutting edge technology allows for students and trainers to be in different locations, and virtually come together in a virtual training space. It allows direct interaction with the equipment, real time instruction, feedback and verification of skills.

The topics in Hydac’s VR training are related to hydraulics, electro-hydraulics, hydro-pneumatic accumulators and thermal optimisation, with a focus on workplace safety. Students have their training experience in a total 3D environment; the training uniquely allows and simulates hazardous events that would be impossible to demonstrate safely in real life.

Students can also perform tasks as they would normally do if they were on the real machine, such as changing a hydraulic filter and checking the pressure of a hydro-pneumatic accumulator; all with the full assistance of a professional qualified technical trainer. A quick video using an example of a real hydraulic machine operating in Western Australia can be seen here.

Hydac’s VR Training

Another example of online delivery involves Skills Lab, which offers short courses in automation, PLCs and SCADA and is also delivering the Industry 4.0 Higher Apprenticeship qualification – the Diploma of Applied Technologies.

Skills Lab uses a series of 4K video cameras and software tools that participants control to conduct virtual training with RTO-certified trainers, who deliver the training centrally from the Lab. Course content is identical to in-person classroom training, with learners completing theory and action learning projects. Whether that is writing code remotely or fault-finding, learners upload and interact with the physical training platform in the Lab, and watch the live video stream of code in action on the platform.

South Australia’s Minister for Innovation and Skills, David Pisoni MP, recently launched the commencement of Skills Lab’s first group of higher apprentices undertaking the Diploma of Applied Technologies in SA. For at least the remainder of 2020, all their training will be online.

A Skills Lab trainer at the Training Lab, taking a learner through a PLC training course

Both of these organisations are Ai Group members, and both are at the cutting edge of innovation to ensure they meet the skills needs of their customers.

Further information can be found at and

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Peter Canavan is a senior policy officer at Ai Group, contributing to education and training policy and managing projects including the Industry 4.0 Higher Apprenticeship project. He has previously managed national projects relating to apprenticeships. Peter has over 25 years experience in the vocational training sector, and has also managed projects for the Victorian Government, including apprenticeship projects and projects supporting workers retrenched from the automotive manufacturing sector.

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