Training in cyberspace

In industries where accidents can cost lives – and millions of pounds – simulators are priceless. In training, every flight made by an RAF pilot costs taxpayers tens of thousands of pounds. Using flight simulators enables an entire squadron of fighters to take to virtual skies for very little cost. Such simulators are the most impressive and expensive computer games available and are part of a $1 billion-a-year industry. However, to be worth that much, simulators need to offer more than just military applications. (The Times, 24 March 2007)

Drivers of heavy goods vehicles and buses can be trained on a simulator before they are allowed on the road. Workers in high-risk industries, such as nuclear power stations or heavy mining equipment and cranes use them in training. Air traffic controllers and ships' pilots can learn on machines, which allow them to make mistakes without causing damage or endangering lives. The experience is very realistic. (The Times, 24 March 2007)

The simulator market is dominated by two companies – Thales, the French defence and engineering group and CAE of Canada. Between them, they control about 90% of the market. An Airbus A380 superjumbo simulator can cost up to $10 million, but as computer technology becomes more sophisticated, an increasing number of companies are offering scaled-down simulators more closely resembling those sold for the electronic games market. These machines could broaden the market to allow companies that have not been able to afford them in the past to employ them. In future, employees in many industries may find that, on starting a new job, their first task will be to complete a computer game. (The Times, 24 March 2007)

Training is important in every industry. See two Times 100 case studies showing how training is conducted in other fields:

  1. Marks and Spencer is one of the UK's best known high street retailers. It has over 450 stores and employs over 65,000 people nationally and abroad. In recent times, the retail sector has become much more competitive. In response, Marks and Spencer has developed a new strategy to respond to change. This has required its staff to be trained to cope with new challenges.
  2. National Grid is one of the world's largest utilities. It is responsible for the safe delivery of energy (gas and electricity) reliably, responsibly and efficiently. Its networks include overhead power lines, electricity substations, high pressure gas pipelines and distribution pipes. National Grid's focus on training and development ensures that its people have the skills to contribute to its safety, operating and financial performance.


The Times, 24 March 2008 (print edition)

The Times Online – Simulator training is a £1bn business for Thales and CAE of Canada

The Times 100 Case Studies – Marks & Spencer – The role of training and development in career progression

The Times 100 Case Studies – National Grid – Developing skills in a large organisation through training and development

Potential Study Questions:

  • Explain the difference between 'training' and 'development' of an employee.
  • List and describe three methods of on-the-job training.
  • What type of testing at the interview stage might be used to determine a person's suitability to become a pilot?