Going virtual during lockdown

Article image - Going virtual during lockdown Burke Shire Councilís new-age staff training during the COVID-19 pandemic won them the LGAQ Butch Lenton Bush Council Innovation Award.

Burke Shire Council’s outside-the-box response to managing staff training during a four-month coronavirus lockdown, earned them the 2020 Butch Lenton Bush Council Innovation Award at the 124th Local Government Association of Queensland (ALGA) annual conference.

With ‘nobody in and nobody out’ of the remote local government area, approximately 450km north of Mount Isa, during the peak of the COVID-19 crisis, Council turned to virtual reality to ensure training operations were not impacted.

In a virtual acceptance speech, Burke Shire Council Chief Executive Officer, Clare Keenan said, “COVID-19 hit us hard here in Burke Shire.

“Our borders were completely closed, and flights were suspended for four months, which triggered unprecedented challenges.

“We needed ongoing staff training in particular, to ensure our workers were safe on the job, so we put our hand up to participate in a pilot virtual reality work, health and safety training solution with Brisbane start-up Next World Enterprises.”

The success of the project furthers Council’s reputation as being an early adopter of technology after it led an initiative to bring high-speed broadband internet ‘with performance better than Sydney’ to the region.

The Next World Enterprises solution provided VR training that accurately reflected the reality of workplace situations, and Keenan praised staff for embracing the technology with an open mind and willingness to learn.

Next World Chief Executive Officer and founder Michael O’Reilly said they were proud to have a hand in Council’s award recognition, and that the implementation of Next World VR was critical for organisations wanting effective and affordable employee training.

“For decades, councils and businesses like Burke Shire have relied on the likes of eLearning and onsite training which requires extensive travel, time, and funds to keep employees safe and educated.”

Mayor Ernie Camp said, “It is an exciting, innovative opportunity for our staff, driven by our staff.

“Burke Shire is desirous to expand this way of learning beyond our workforce – to our communities, our region and across our state.

“By enabling simultaneous, interactive engagement with a wide audience, we increase the value to, and depth of knowledge of, the training program and participants.”