It’s not just Facebook’s headline-making transformation to Meta that has sharpened our focus on VR and its natural evolution into the Metaverse. By 2024, the value of the virtual reality market is expected to reach $12.19 billion internationally, according to Statista. There are now over 171 million virtual reality users worldwide.
Virtual reality uses computer-aided stimuli to create an immersive sensory experience that makes you feel like you’re somewhere else. All you need is a visual and audio headset connected (ideally wirelessly) to a computer program that allows you to simulate the real world. Although the technology has long been associated with video games and entertainment, recent advances have made virtual reality an increasingly effective learning tool. It’s used for classroom instruction and diversity, equity, and inclusive training, as well as to develop leadership and soft skills, according to the Society for Human Resource Management.
Virtual reality’s ability to transport a learner to another location without them ever leaving the classroom means that it is also particularly useful for safely training workers to handle hazardous tasks and situations. Think of chemical handling, firefighting, military operations, and electrical work.
Virtual reality opens up new ways to prepare learners and workers from all backgrounds for careers in today’s rapidly changing workforce. And a surprising state, far from tech havens like Silicon Valley, is leading the way: Alabama.
How virtual reality is leveling the playing field
Alabama’s LBW Community College is harnessing virtual reality to help students with special needs develop workforce skills to bridge the career gap. The Alabama RISE (Re-Emerging Ideas for Successful Employment) program allows these students to participate in virtual reality simulations to develop critical work experience even before being hired. This helps prepare them for in-demand roles, such as in logistics companies.
Research has shown that people with disabilities are largely excluded from employment opportunities, despite lower absenteeism rates, better retention, higher return on investment in training and development, higher productivity and higher levels high motivation. Virtual reality is helping the state of Alabama start tapping into this overlooked talent pool.
Virtual world in future careers
The technology for LBW’s initiative is provided by Transfr, a company dedicated to using virtual reality to prepare students from diverse backgrounds for their future careers.
Transfr has also partnered with schools in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, providing ninth-graders with virtual insight into several career paths. Students are using virtual reality to explore potential careers in automotive, hospitality, public safety and medicine, says 6WBRC.
Nine other West Alabama counties have also partnered with Transfr and a nonprofit network of workforce development providers, West Alabama Works, to provide more than 1,100 students in the secondary an overview of career options and technical education.
Additionally, Alabama’s National Workforce Agency, AIDT, received the 2021 National Workforce Program of the Year Award from the National Association of Workforce Development Professionals (NAWDP). ) for its virtual reality training program that makes job training in Alabama’s fastest growing industries accessible to thousands of people. of unemployed and aspiring manufacturing professionals across the state.
What’s powerful about this program is that it helps connect these students with career opportunities in local industries, including hospitality, tourism, architecture, construction, transportation, logistics and manufacturing. This investment is paying off: there has been an 18% increase in CTE enrollment at participating high schools over the rate three years ago.
Develop your skills through virtual reality
VR training isn’t just for students looking to jump-start their careers. Mazda Toyota Manufacturing has used it to create random scenarios for workers at its Alabama plants to learn and practice troubleshooting and maintaining automotive paint robots. Without VR training, workers would have to work on live robots, which can be dangerous and costly to the business, as decommissioning robots slowed the ability of painting robots. In-person training was also a challenge during COVID when staff couldn’t travel for off-site training. The VR approach is helping to improve trainees’ confidence, with three-quarters saying they prefer it to traditional learning methods.
Another virtual reality training initiative is helping transition serving military members, their spouses and veterans into manufacturing careers. The Manufacturing Institute has partnered with Transfr so these workers can translate their skills and experiences into highly sought-after manufacturing skills such as precision measurement, blueprint reading, plant and construction safety, and other certifications. .
“Alabama’s work goes far beyond the needs of an employer or a community in the state,” said Bharani Rajakumar, Founder and CEO of TRANSFR. “They are at the forefront of using virtual reality for career exploration, upskilling, and creating well-paying careers in industries like manufacturing that are accessible to more Alabamians, regardless of skill level. studies.”
Yellowhammer State should set an example for other states when it comes to virtual reality training for staff and future employees. I expect to see a lot more of this approach to training across the country.
VR now, Metaverse tomorrow?
I think of virtual reality for staff training as small steps into the metaverse. Immersing yourself in this world is something of a catchphrase for Paul Daughterty, Group Managing Director – Technology and Chief Technology Officer of multinational IT company Accenture.
At Accenture’s Technology Vision 2022 event held in March, he said, “The Metaverse is something for here and now, not just tomorrow. It will impact every part of every business and it’s coming soon…it’s the future of the internet enabling new worlds that connect virtual experiences and real experiences, virtual identities and real identities and also premises.
How will your organization reframe VR training as a pathway to the metaverse?