Why we’ll all be gamers in the future

 |   Barrie Sheers, Managing Director at Microsoft

Game learning may be the way to bridge the skills gap

Barrie Sheers, GM

In the digital era, the traditional rules no longer apply. As our society undergoes a massive transformation thanks to new technologies like Artificial Intelligence, mobile apps and smart machines, old ways of preparing students for the world of work – or training those already in jobs – aren’t moving fast enough to keep pace with change. Meanwhile, employers are trying to find new means of identifying talent to fill existing skills shortages. One solution can already be found in our classrooms, and it’s now reaching our workplaces. Gaming.

Game-based learning is recognised globally as a valuable educational tool, which could potentially assist in developing the right skills to fill our skills gaps in construction, technology, hospitality and beyond. Recently Microsoft supported Kiwi gaming company Joy Business Academy, with the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, BCITO, Xero and others, to launch Construction Tycoon. A game intended to teach potential construction workers all the skills they’ll need for a career in the industry, Construction Tycoon teaches players everything from how to balance the books to managing the supply chain and building sustainably.

If you’ll pardon the pun, this builds on something we’ve known for a while: that reaching and engaging more potential talent is easier when you make it fun. While it can’t replace practical experience or expert training, if New Zealand employers want to attract more young people into their industries, game-based learning can help to inspire young minds early. Microsoft is now working with Joy Business Academy to optimise its products and hopes to market them worldwide, recognising the momentum for this kind of learning.

Construction Tycoon teaches practical on-the-job skills. Microsoft’s work in classrooms around the world with Minecraft Education Edition shows the value of games in also building students’ creative and collaborative abilities as well as soft skills that often get forgotten. This will give employees the edge in tomorrow’s job market. Minecraft Education Edition is available to teachers and students in all New Zealand State and State Integrated schools, through the Ministry of Education funded Microsoft software agreement.

Deirdre Quarnstrom, General Manager of Minecraft Education, says research shows having an avatar also encourages risk-taking, helping students learn faster in a safe game environment. As today’s business leaders often say, if you “fail faster”, you quickly learn how to “fail better”.

Game-based learning is now making employers, industry bodies and even governments take notice for its potential to capture new talent. TradeMe’s latest collaboration with Joy Business Academy shows how games can also help connect employers with a wider range of people. Mini-games are being used to test potential employees’ aptitude for certain tasks, demonstrating their ability to perform the role advertised in a way that a paper CV can’t.

This kind of gamified testing can also help measure and boost performance on the job. By building special games modules into Dynamics 365 platforms at a call centre in 2017, employees’ productivity went up 10 per cent, absenteeism dropped 12 per cent and the team’s acknowledgement (and understanding) of important updates rose from 23 per cent to a whopping 89 per cent after the games were introduced. The games made day to day tasks more exciting.

Gamification is set to transform not only educational models but many facets of how we work and engage with each other, well beyond the classroom. It will make it easier to identify and attract suitable recruits, measure performance and identify employees’ or learners’ needs. In an era when vocational training is under the spotlight, it’s exciting to see the Government and its departments supporting creative new ways to boost learning, reach a wider range of New Zealanders and impart crucial skills. When it comes to preparing our students for the workplaces of the future, we need to get our game on.

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