Western Electrical Contractors Association, Inc.

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Committed to Safety: WECA Apprentices Learn CPR ... with Virtual Reality!

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

As California's premier training provider for the electrical and low voltage industries, WECA is committed to continually bringing cutting-edge technology to its apprentices, students, and member contractors.

To that end, WECA recently piloted a CPR and first aid training program utilizing ground-breaking virtual reality technology from Fremont, CA-based ICE Safety Solutions. First-year commercial and residential apprentices undertook the training on May 1st at WECA's Rancho Cordova facility.

"The idea to pilot virtual reality for CPR and first aid training was a great decision, and I am grateful to Terry [Seabury, WECA's Executive Director and CEO] for making sure WECA took this step," said Don Black, WECA's Apprentice Training director. "The students were deeply engaged and had fun - and more importantly, I think they will retain more of the information. It is Terry's leadership and foresight that makes WECA the premier merit-based apprenticeship program."

ICE Safety Solutions' virtual reality CPR and first aid training utilizes virtual reality headsets featuring videos of real-life CPR and first aid scenarios, a Bluetooth Manikin app that connects to ICE-provided iPhones to provide participants with real-time stats and vitals on the dummies they're 'working' on, and partner and group-based exercises and simulations. Exercises and simulations featured in the pilot training program included chest compressions, mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, and scenarios for jobsite falls, bleeding, and shock.

"Technology is a tool that can help in the understanding of existing training to make it more fun and interactive," said Black. "Anytime you can take static content and leverage current technology to make it [training] more interactive and engaging, it improves the student's ability to absorb the content and learn the material."

During the pilot training program, students were absorbed in the exercises, simulations, and material, as evidenced by their asking questions often. And even instructor Lakeal Morris joined in on the training, taking the opportunity to learn alongside his students as well as brush up on his CPR and basic first aid skills. Black, meanwhile, stood off to the side, observing the program with rapt attention and gamely offered suggestions and words of encouragement to apprentices.
Over the course of the program, apprentices quickly gained confidence in their newfound skills and knowledge, even going so far as to take the lead and delegate tasks when carrying out the group-based exercises and simulations.

"I hope that through their training - because it was more engaging, interactive, and immersive - that they will retain more of what they learned today so that if they ever have to perform CPR or first aid, they will be better prepared to potentially save a life," said Black.

This appears to be a safe bet - during the program, apprentices sometimes paused to take pictures of the real-time stats and vitals displayed on the iPhones. And toward the end of the program, apprentices were eager to respectfully take selfies of their groups, replete with a fellow apprentice laying on the ground under a space blanket.

Of his thoughts on the program, Black stated that "because WECA is leveraging current technology to help our apprentices be better prepared through virtual reality training, I think it gives them a competitive advantage [in the field]. I would hope that all organizations will work to provide the best possible training available - especially CPR training - because CPR training has the ability to save lives; maybe even my own life."