VR technology nurtures lift technicians
Hong Kong is a built-up area that abounds with skyscrapers, in which the lifts carry people up and down every day. Proper periodic examination and maintenance are important to ensure the safe operation of lifts. The Government has earlier launched the Lift Modernisation Subsidy Scheme (LIMSS) to subsidise building owners in need to enhance lift safety. Meanwhile, the Electrical and Mechanical Services Department (EMSD) has also collaborated with the Vocational Training Council (VTC) and the Lift & Escalator Contractors Association (LECA) to strengthen the training of talents. This time, I have invited a colleague of the EMSD and the representatives of the VTC and the industry to introduce how innovation and technology can be used to support training and attract more young people to join the industry.
At present, there are about 68 000 lifts in Hong Kong. With rapid technological advancement, modern lifts are equipped with more comprehensive safety devices than the aged ones. In March this year, the Government launched the LIMSS to offer financial incentive with appropriate professional support to building owners in need to encourage them to carry out lift modernisation works by installing specified safety devices or carrying out complete replacement of lifts which have not been equipped with these safety devices.
According to Senior Engineer of the EMSD, Mr LAI Chun-fai, the first round of applications for the scheme just closed on 1 August and about 1 200 applications involving about 5 000 lifts have been received. The response is overwhelming. I look forward to the smooth commencement of the modernisation works to further safeguard the living environment of the public.
Lift training with VR technology
Quality maintenance is crucial to lift safety. However, the lift industry has been facing the problem of persistent manpower shortage, and so the Government has been playing the role of facilitator to co-operate with the industry and the VTC to enhance training for technical personnel. This year, we, the three partners, have worked together to develop a virtual reality (VR) system to train the both trainees and practicing technicians. The VR system allows users to complete tasks of different scenarios so that they can reinforce their understanding of the points to note in each procedure. The VR system can also facilitate the introduction of lift profession to young people and attract more new blood to join the industry.
More realistic experience for trainees
The Principal Instructor of the Pro-Act Training and Development Centre (Electrical) of the VTC, Mr WONG Kai-hon, Charles, says that trainees in general need to learn how to install or maintain lifts in a realistic environment. However, it involves substantial fees and spaces to build a realistic environment. This year, the VTC has specifically introduced this brand new VR system to its lift courses together with practical training, allowing trainees to have a deeper understanding of different tasks as if they are working in real-world situations. Besides, if trainees do not follow instructions during training, they will be susceptible to danger. The VR system can simulate emergency or accident scenarios for them to learn how to solve problems in a physically safe environment.
The lift trade’s keen demand for talents
The Lift and Escalator programme offered by the VTC is very practical. The skills that trainees can learn are exactly what the trade requires, resulting in a significant increase in the intake of new trainees in recent years. The vice president of the LECA, Mr LAI Wah-hing, says that as the trade has a keen demand for talents, practicing technicians may enhance their skills and qualifications through continuous learning. Besides, a number of technicians will take examinations to obtain professional engineer qualifications, and develop a career in engineering management. Mr LAI Wah-hing believes that VR technology can strengthen professional training in the trade and deepen employees’ understanding of the importance of following safe work procedures. In addition, lift contractors will buy VR equipment to train their own employees.
The work of repair and maintenance comes with great responsibility
On that day, trainees participating in the Lift and Escalator programme all said that VR technology adds to the authenticity of the training experience, making it easier for them to have a good grasp of their future job. The technology also helps to enhance their safety awareness and reduce the anxiety that might come during their internship. The trainees said that they want to equip themselves with a set of specialised skills through training. They also understand the level of responsibilities associated with the repair and maintenance of lifts, which are closely related to people’s daily lives.
We use lifts every day. The Government will continue to strengthen cooperation with the industry and training institutions to improve the learning environment using innovative technology. In addition, we will promote safe practices for lift works and attract more young talents to join the lift and escalator trade. Regarding the way forward, given the overwhelming response to the LIMSS, the Government is actively looking at possible ways to inject new resources into the scheme for the benefit of more owners in need.
15 September, 2019