Realisation • 26 April 2022

Promising experiment at Cetim: a smart voice assistant as innovative learning tool

At Cetim, we wanted to test how an smart voice assistant on a tablet could help to train young people on the job.

Patrick Orlans and Philippe Seillier, from Cetim (Centre technique des industries mécaniques), were looking for an adapted training method to prepare young people with little schooling for mechanical professions. They found a surprising solution.

"One of the problems which SMEs are facing is finding employees, especially for jobs that are in high demand. At the same time, we are confronted with a 20% unemployment rate in the 18 to 20 age group. Young people who have dropped out of school have skills and competences, but not necessarily experience, for example with industrial machining. With new learning methods such as the smart voice and video assistant on a tablet, we wanted to explore the possibility of engaging our target group in the industrial environment. Most people are familiar with the principle of Siri, Alexa or Google Assistant: you give an instruction, e.g. 'Siri, play some music in the living room', and the smart voice assistant listens, interprets and executes."

We were able to offer our young trainees a realistic training environment, with the right machines and tools.

Patrick Orlans | Cetim

No experience required

: "Our smart voice assistant is a modified version of an existing application. Essentially, we break down a task into small steps, which the smart voice assistant then explains to the learner. In other words, you learn by doing. Another feature of the application is that it can be used in a very noisy environment.
Our target group for this project are young people with little education. They don't want an academic approach, with an instructor coming in and explaining how things should be done. They have new skills, thanks to the internet and digital technology, and they want to learn independently on the workplace, at their own pace. The smart voice assistant is ideal for this."

Patrick : "A few months ago, together with the French partners of the BHC21 project, we conducted a first pilot project with seven young people, five boys and two girls. We were able to offer them a realistic, industrial learning environment with the right machines and tools. Their task was to produce real mechanical parts from metal and polymer blanks. They had to carry out turning, milling and metrological control operations. And all this without any previous experience or training."

Philippe : "They first went through a few weeks of soft skills training for the workshop. We wanted to work on their motivation, respect for safety rules and things like that."

Positive on all fronts

"To be honest, we were surprised by the good results. These were young people who rejected the traditional, school-based way of learning, were clearly enthusiastic about digital tools. Previously they had no clear idea about working in the engineering industry. Our experiment offered them insights in the job requirements, and they also were more motivated to learn".

"Working with the smart voice assistant also proved to be an effective learning method. We had three phases: in the 1st phase they were given a lot of instructions, in the 2nd phase less instrictions and in phase 3 they had to do carry out technical tasks independently, without any help of the smart voice assistant All seven trainees succeeded - so they didn't just follow the instructions without thinking. We are very happy about that."

Patrick : "At the beginning of May we will be strartinh the pilots which will take around 2 months. Together with the French partners of the BHC21 project, we have already found eight new young people, and we are working with SMEs which are willing to offer learning and working experience on the workfloor with the help of the smart voice assistant. We are adapting the learning tool ourselves. And with the positive results of the first tests, we want to consolidate the methodology of learning in a work situation with the help of an learning tool, in an industrial environment and over a representative period."

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