‘Dig In’ — Recruiting game for future construction workers


by Joanie Hollabaugh, Sr. Director of Marketing

Best. Hiring. Hack. Ever.

I was watching an episode of ConTechCrew’s weekly show about robotics in the construction industry. Scott Peters, one of the inventors of SAM robot (semi-automatic masonry) was being interviewed by James Benham of JBKnowledge and Jeff Sample, the “Iron Man of IT.” (I wrote about SAM a few years ago – read it here.)

Being a geek in general, I thoroughly enjoyed their discussion about SAM and the new “mule” robot for masonry heavy lifting; “swarms” of drones and 3D printers;  the passing of Microsoft co-founder, Paul Allen; and more. It was a great episode, watch it here.

What made me sit up straight, however, was one of the news nuggets they mentioned in an article about how to attract the younger generation into the construction industry. The article was published on TribLive, an online news source for the Pittsburgh area market. Entitled, “Construction union using video games to interest kids in apprenticeships” — I was struck by the brilliance of the idea, which the ConTechCrew fully recognized.

Evidently, a local Union (International Union of Operating Engineers Local 66) teamed up with a game developer, Simcoach Games, to create FREE apps for kids to play with — operating heavy construction equipment.

From the article:

The gaming company developed “Dig in: An Excavator Game” and “Dig In: A Dozer Game” for the union. They introduced their first game, “Hook: A Tower Crane Game” a little over a year ago.
Players move dirt, dig holes and make lifts using their thumbs to control the “joy sticks” through varying levels of proficiency and difficulty. They also receive messages connecting them to real life apprenticeship opportunities.

Now here comes the geeky marketing part — it’s a RECRUITING tool to get kids interested in construction, as early as grade and middle school. Paraphrasing James Benham: If they think it’s fun as a game app, imagine getting PAID to do it in real life! The game has conversion goals to attract interns, who get paid for classroom learning plus on the job training. After graduating four years later, they can earn as much as $60 an hour! Local 66 has more apprentices now than ever — so apparently, they have successfully targeted and converted this demographic. Brilliant.

So of course, I had to go to the App Store and download the game.

Accounting for the fact that most of the time I am an adult, I have to say I had a little trouble mastering the finesse. The controls are simple enough; two ‘target’ areas allow for movement R+L and up + down. What they don’t tell you is you must use the controls simultaneously and it takes a little dexterity (in full disclosure, I still text with my fingers and not thumbs like younger people).

Once you are trained, you head to the ‘job site’ where you rack up points for moving dirt to the designated area. In my first assignment just to move a pile of dirt, I racked up a lot of remarks from the super, like, “Don’t just swing it willy-nilly!” and “Careful, that digger’s not cheap!” and my favorite, “Whoa there, this isn’t a demolition job!” LOL. I also knocked over a field supervisor and dropped dirt on a pickup truck. As you can see below, I didn’t unlock the other construction sites (yet). Guess I won’t be changing career paths soon — but it sure was fun!

Screen shots from the game (Local Union and module selections):


Go ahead and share it!

In summary, I have to commend the ingenuity of Local 66 and Simcoach for creating an app that makes gaming skills into a relatable, age appropriate job recruiting tool for the next generations of construction workers. I really ‘dig’ it!

Please feel free to share this download link with your local industry organization, in hopes of attracting your local youth!

*Citations and links

Follows: @JamesMBenham | @TheConTechCrew | @JBKnowledge | @IronManOfIT