A Simulated Solution

In the face of a skilled labor shortage, give laborers skills

May 30, 2017

If your workers don’t know how many of what size nail is minimum for floor joist connections, then your framing jobs probably aren’t being done to code, which is a roundabout way of saying your business’ reputation may be in jeopardy.

If there wasn’t a severe skilled labor shortage, the obvious solution would be to get a new employee. The next most obvious is to provide training, but finding a qualified instructor is tough – especially in the face of a looming shortage of code professionals. So why not the not so obvious solution: use a simulator.

As of 2014, more than 55 percent of code officials were over the age of 55, and over the next 15 years, more than 80 percent of the existing code professional workforce is planning to retire. Those figures come from an International Code Council report, which read that the impending exodus will result in “a significant loss of institutional memory and capacity.”

The good news is vocational enrollment is growing – like in Massachusetts, where the state’s 37 vocational schools currently have a combined waiting list of 3,000, a report from The Berkshire Eagle confirmed. The bad news is, for today’s workforce, vocational school is, in many cases, too big a cost and time commitment to seriously consider.

Enter the Delmar Online Training Simulation – a virtual tool remodelers and builders can use to bring their crews quickly up to speed on the National Electric Code and the International Residential Code.

One Solution to One Problem

Developed by education and training company Cengage, in conjunction with the International Code Council and the National Fire Protection Association, the simulation is a comprehensive, online, digital walkthrough of residential construction codes, promising to bring workers into compliance with footing, foundation, framing, roof, wall, electrical, and insulation work. For a 12-month subscription, a single login costs about $50.

The simulation works by placing trainees in likely jobsite situations, teaching and testing them in three stages: learn, practice and challenge.

Image: courtesy Cengage

In the learning stage, trainees are able to go from jobsite problem to jobsite problem, examining specific areas of the construction in extreme detail and from multiple angles. Take a chimney footing, for instance. In the below example, the simulation shows an up-to-code footing, complete with an explanation of what makes it up to code, as well as why those code standards are in place.

Image: courtesy Cengage

In the practice stage, trainees are allowed to test their coding knowledge, but, as the below example shows, are still provided detailed, systematic instructions for determining whether a specific jobsite problem passes or fails.  

Image: courtesy Cengage

The final stage of the simulation, the challenge stage, puts trainees in a real world jobsite, with no direction other than a list of potential code violations to check. As an added layer of difficulty, the violations trainees encounter are randomized, so they’re not continually encountering the same situations.

Image: courtesy Cengage

The Delmar Online Training Simulation for residential construction codes is not a panacea to the industry’s labor shortage, but it is a gift-wrapped solution to one specific challenge facing home improvement businesses. And it’s the type of training that Cengage Senior Product Manager Vanessar Myers believes the industry desperately needs.

Myers says: “If we want to ramp up the workforce, we need to offer training options that get their attention and keep it.”

About the Author


About the Author


James McClister is managing editor for Professional Remodeler.

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