Collaborative research improves skills development

Woman using VR at the Victorian Tunnelling Centre
Woman using VR at the Victorian Tunnelling Centre

Building skills for future demand

Australia’s first tunnelling centre is collaborating with industry to find new ways to address the skills gap.


The Victorian Tunnelling Centre (VTC) at Holmesglen Institute in Melbourne is working closely with industry to fast-track training, using real-life scenarios to help plug the skills gap. 

Workers entering Victorian Tunnelling Centre

The centre has the capacity to train thousands of workers a year. It recently broadened its focus to help organisations across Australia:   

  • upskill workers in underground construction and tunnelling  
  • access specialist training for new technologies 
  • find a suitable space to conduct their own training or verify workers’ competencies. 

The VTC is modelled on London’s Tunnelling and Underground Construction Academy. It simulates real-life scenarios and conditions. This is achieved using a replica tunnel, tunnel boring machine, simulators as well as augmented and virtual reality. 

Training is provided at all levels from new entrants to managers and engineer. Trainees can earn nationally-recognised certificate and diploma qualifications in tunnelling. And safety-based credentials for working underground. 

A train-the-trainer program is being developed. This will open the way for instructors to deliver onsite training for specific needs. And provide  VTC with a better understanding of industry requirements. 


Building capability for today and tomorrow

VTC’s goals go beyond training workers for today’s jobs.  

Ross Digby, Holmesglen's Associate Director: Centre of Energy and Infrastructure, is positioning the centre to build capacity and deliver tunnelling technology and techniques for the future. 

Collaborations with industry are very much part of this picture. 

“We don’t just see our role in terms of providing education and training,” Ross said. 

“It’s a place for workforce development and collaborative activities with other providers. And will help with the sharing of ideas, experience and technologies. 

“We are working to build up capability and capacity right across industry. 

“VTC is also a centre for applied research. Research can be undertaken on site, developing new tunnelling technology or working with companies on specific challenges. 

“We want to effectively and efficiently respond to workforce skills development and project requirements, both in construction and operation.” 


Collaboration key to meeting demand

Holmesglen’s Head of Department Civil Construction, Safety, Industrial Skills and Victorian Tunnelling Centre, Gary Giles, has a background in construction and extensive experience as a senior trainer. 

This experience has helped to create programs that leverage VTC’s resources to best meet industry needs. 

“We have open days and workshops to help create these connections with business,” said Gary. 

“When it comes to tunnelling, there is a big skills gap between tier two and tier three companies.

“We want to plug that and have a pipeline of workers ready to meet future requirements.” 


Flexibility to meet specific challenges 

Tunnelling projects often pose unique and complex challenges which come at a high risk for contractors. 

“We spend a lot of time talking to the contractors who do the work,” said Ross. 

“We sit down with them to identify solutions rather than going to them and saying we offer training in this, this and this.”  

The centre’s development and direction are guided by some of Australia’s most experienced tunnellers who make up the VTC Industry Advisory Group. 

“The group provides us with industry advice about where we need to be focussing our efforts and training,” said Ross. 

The advisory group has close links with the International Tunnelling Association. This gives VTC access to international technologies and techniques. 

“As the tunnelling industry changes and new technologies are introduced, workers will have to learn how to use them,” Ross said. 

Learn more about the Victorian Tunnelling Centre courses at Holmesglen TAFE  

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