Water company will use games technology to boost business

Northumbrian Water has teamed up with Gateshead College to pioneer a virtual reality training tool that will improve key areas of the business.

Games students have made a splash at one of the North East’s biggest employers with a new virtual experience that’s allowed them to put a toe in the water to try different ways to train their people.

Northumbrian Water commissioned Gateshead College’s games production students to create a virtual reality training tool that can be used in outreach activities with schools and raise awareness across the business.

The technology often used to create games and simulator experiences has been employed to develop a virtual environment based on the water company’s control room which will be used as a fun way of giving insight to other areas of the business about identifying and rectifying issues.

Richard Ward, Curriculum Leader at Gateshead College, said: “Despite the gaming and virtual reality market being one of the fastest growing sectors in the UK, worth £4.2 billion, there’s still a common misconception that gaming and video production studies are irrelevant to the wider business world.

“The students visited Northumbrian Water’s control room and were asked to virtually recreate it in a way that can be used in other areas of the business to describe what their engineers do, how they spot a problem and create a plan to fix it.”

Once produced, the virtual reality tool will provide a range of benefits to the water company. It can be used during onboarding for new people joining the organisation, to share some of the control room activities and challenges with other teams in the business and also in outreach activities in schools and colleges. 

Richard continued: “Our courses are about so much more than what happens in the classroom; we focus on ensuring our students build industry relevant skills and knowledge. Throughout this project, they showed passion and maturity and I am so proud of them and their capabilities in responding to a real-life business challenge with a viable solution.”

During the project, the HND Games Production students learned real, hands-on skills that will stand them in good stead when it comes to getting a job. The project has been so successful, Gateshead College is looking to roll it out again with next year’s students.

Sophie Carvin, Academy Manager at Northumbrian Water, added: “It’s been a really educational experience for us as a business to work so closely with Gateshead College students and wonderful to see them grow their confidence and skills.

“Not only have they impressed us with their abilities, we genuinely feel that the tool, once it’s up and running, will be valuable to the business. It will, for example, be used to raise awareness amongst young people of the worthwhile, challenging but often hidden careers in the water industry that are critical to ensuring we all have clean, clear and safe water.”