VR and digital technology spark students' interest in construction

Students at Boulevard Academy got a flavour of how digital technology and virtual reality can be used in the construction industry at a recent careers fair. 

Sewell Construction were joined by partners Hull City Council and Hull Esteem who are working on the academy’s new extension, alongside Senior University Lecturer in Construction Project Management, Mark Swallow. 

Mark showed how VR can be used to navigate a virtual construction model to aid communication of site arrangements and discussions around the proposed method of works before construction even begins. He has been working in partnership with Sewell Construction to explore safety planning logistics and communications, bringing together the full project team including site managers, commercial managers and trade contractors. 

Rob Page, Site Manager for Sewell Construction, who is currently working on the £6m extension of The Boulevard Academy, said:  

“The projects we deliver are at the forefront of digital construction, and we’re able to use digital technologies such as VR to view our construction sites up close and personal in a collaborative, safe environment before construction works on site even begin.  

“It’s great to have Mark back with us again for this event. VR is always a great conversation starter with the students, and we’ve been able to use something innovative to talk about the diverse range of roles available within our sector.” 

This event follows the recent Business Breakfast hosted by the Academy, where representatives from Sewell Construction, Esteem and Sewell Facilities Management jumped at the opportunity to speak to Year 8, 9 and 10 students about their unique roles within the business, as well as discussing different routes into the industry. 

James Prest, Assistant Project Manager for Esteem, said:  

“The Boulevard Academy has a great focus on driving career aspirations for their students and we’ve been delighted to take part in careers events they’ve hosted over the past couple of weeks.  

“It was great to talk to the students about how we got to where we are today in our respective roles, and I think most were surprised with the range of roles available within this industry. When young people think of construction, they tend to associate it with trade roles such as bricklaying, plastering, groundworks, but as we demonstrated, there’s so much more to it than that.” 

A whole range of different roles were showcased, from Site Manager to trainee Quantity Surveyor, PR and Communications lead, Community Investment Champion, Mobile Maintenance Technician and Project Manager – demonstrating just how varied the industry is. 

Mark Swallow, Senior Lecturer in Construction Project Management at Sheffield Hallam University, added:  

“It was a fantastic opportunity to showcase the industries advancements and the applications of digital technologies to students who may choose to become part of our exciting industry. The students enjoyed exploring the virtual world whilst also learning about the construction methodologies and materials used to build their new school facilities.” 

The countdown to completion for The Boulevard Academy is fast approaching. Once complete, the major expansion will include new dedicated rooms for food technology and textiles, meaning Boulevard will be able to offer courses in these subjects for the first time.  

There will be an additional multi-use games area and an activity studio added to the site, improving outdoor exercise spaces for students, as well as enhancing the PE provision. 

Two specialist music rooms with four new practice areas for lessons and rehearsals will be introduced, whilst improvements to computer science facilities will add two extra suites and additional classrooms.  

Not only this, but the expansion will also see a new library, art rooms, STEM (science, technology, english and maths) spaces and additional general-purpose classrooms.