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The Future of Virtual Learning | National Manufacturing Day

7 Jul 2022

Spearheaded by Make UK, National Manufacturing Day gives manufacturers the spotlight to promote their current and upcoming careers opportunities to the manufacturing sector.

From disruptions in global supply chains, to everyday factory operations becoming more complex, manufacturers are under increased pressure to close the ‘digital divide’ to attract younger talent more quickly, and provide them with the skills they need more effectively.

Valuechain’s Sustainability Director, Ben Peace, is a big advocate of this, and his most recent project is here to showcase what the future of manufacturing education could look like, and how Valuechain can help to close the ‘digital divide’.

Ben Peace, Sustainability Director:

My son is a fairly typical 11 year old, obsessed with Fortnite, Minecraft and ‘first person’ games I wasn’t even aware of 5 years ago. It’s pretty much all he wants to do, given the choice. He’s a true digital native.

Whereas, as my wife will tell you, I can be a reluctant user of technology – I still record things off the TV to watch later; still have CDs, still use an iPod, etc.

There is a “digital divide” between the generations which is particularly obvious in the context of manufacturing. Whilst those experienced in manufacturing skills are often less than confident with digital technology, the younger generation often has the digital confidence but not the manufacturing skills.

How do we encourage young people to get into manufacturing, so long recognized as a driver of prosperity? – when views of manufacturing tend to feature so many misconceptions?

This is all central context for the Virtual Learning Factory, which we here at Valuechain, and our sister company, Fitfactory, have been developing courtesy of funding from the UFI VocTech Trust (Vocational Technology), in partnership with Indian XR specialist Simulanis and Manchester Metropolitan University.

Virtual Learning Factory

It takes the form of a “virtual” factory that you have the chance to explore and operate in defined learning modules, using your computer. It doesn’t need fancy equipment; it operates much like Fortnite or Minecraft (or Doom, if you’re of a certain vintage!). However rather than shooting people, this virtual factory features various interactive learning module topics such as industry 4.0, scheduling, assembly, additive manufacturing, and predictive maintenance. It puts the user in scenarios representative of real life manufacturing challenges, and presents options. Of course any mistakes don’t have the implications they might in the real world – an ideal factory for learning. We have grand plans going forward which include true Virtual Reality, and “digital twins” of real factories with live data and genuine real world examples for learners to play with.

For apprentices/potential apprentices, our platform helps illustrate what modern manufacturing (or indeed the future of manufacturing) looks and feels like, helping build insight into the kind of stimulating tasks one might have to do in a manufacturing job, and to develop their skills so they’re ready in due course to deploy them in the real world. It’s accessible, engaging and familiar.

For those already in industry, it helps to develop digital skills by presenting use cases on topics such as industry 4.0, scheduling, assembly, additive manufacturing, and predictive maintenance. The platform aims to build the skills the future workforce will need – with focus to date on digital/industry 4.0, and in due course topics like net zero transition.

Virtual Learning Factory

We’d love to hear from you if:

  • You’re a network/programme/trade association etc. and would be interested in having us present the platform to your network.
  • You’re a manufacturing business looking for skill development for a number of your staff and suppliers.
  • You’re interested in helping us test a new use case we’re completing on additive manufacturing and predictive maintenance.
  • You’re from a manufacturing business and would like a login to the demo platform and have a look at the use cases.

For the time being, access to the demo platform is going to be provided free of charge.

If you fit any of the above, please get in touch with