American civil and children’s rights activist Marian Wright Edelman once stated, “You can’t be what you can’t see.” Innovative technological advancements like virtual reality (VR) have helped to bridge this gap by bringing hands-on career exploration opportunities and skills training to students in new ways. Specifically, VR training can revolutionize classroom and work environments, but many educators and administrators are still left asking, “What is VR training?”
VR skills training is a computer-generated, immersive, and interactive environment to simulate real-world scenarios and provide trainees with a safe and engaging way to learn and practice new skills. In VR skills training, users wear a headset that displays a 3D environment and can use specialized input devices, such as hand controllers or gloves, to interact with objects and perform actions.
While VR owes much of its recent notoriety to its role in the realm of video gaming, it’s also gaining purchase in schools and career-readiness programs of all kinds as an immersive solution to providing skills training and career exploration experiences in a variety of fields.
Virtual simulations of lifelike scenarios can be used to augment the training process, giving users the ability to enter an active learning environment with tasks that translate into real-world experiences.
What hardware does VR training use?
VR training is executed by means of a headset and two controllers with rechargeable batteries. Brian Davis, Director of Career Readiness at Union County Public Schools, wanted to increase access to career exploration activities for his CTE students, he had this to say about the benefits of VR systems:
“Specifically, we were looking for portability. We wanted to bring the headsets to multiple different school locations, plus use them for special events like summer camps.”
Although not required, a casting device (such as Google Chromecast) enables users to gain more mileage per sim by allowing instructors to display a participant’s work for others to view and learn from.
The goggles themselves take the place of expensive, purpose-built facilities, transporting users to a warehouse or airplane hangar, under the hood of a car, or even to the top of a utility pole!
Using VR controllers instead of physical tools in training simulations may seem counterintuitive at first, but they allow learners to interact with the simulated environment and manipulate objects in a realistic way. VR skills training using hand controllers provides immersive, engaging learning experiences that carry over into the real world.
A key task for people undergoing electrical construction training, for instance, is learning how to bend conduit: TRIO Electric’s Curriculum Development Lead, Sam Chiarella drives home the effectiveness of VR electrical construction training, which allowed inexperienced office workers to master this task before ever picking up a tool in real life:“We actually put some of our colleagues who’ve never been in the field through the bending simulation, and they were able to do it on the very first try.”
By building muscle memory and fluency with these tools, all of the skills learners gain translate directly to the real world. (Check out the entire TRIO Electric customer story.)
What software does VR skills training use?
There are a wide array of options when it comes to VR training simulations. Participants can experience what it is like to be a welder, chef, or an automotive mechanic, and many other careers.
VR skills training simulations provide trainees with opportunities to master real skills needed to get hired or upskill into high-paying jobs. Students practice core skills in a safe, supportive setting, under the guidance of a virtual coach. Personalized attention from the digital coach helps participants hone the skills they’ll need to succeed in the workforce.
“The primary thing that attracted us to Transfr was the depth of the library of training,” explained Keith Fletcher, Executive Director for the Strengthening Community Colleges Training grant at Savannah Technical College. “There are an awful lot of VR systems out there, but they are generally very limited. Transfr has quality training across a large library.”
The wide range of disciplines available can either be used to allow future job seekers to master the skills necessary to get them on a path to a well-paying job or to help employers upskill their current employees. Learners can use VR training to gain vital skills in a variety of disciplines, such as manufacturing, construction, hospitality and tourism, automotive, diesel technology, aviation maintenance, and electrical construction, via a wealth of different modules.
Whereas VR skills training is designed to provide learners with practical experience and training in specific job skills or tasks, VR career exploration simulations offer learners an opportunity to experience different careers and work environments, learn about job responsibilities and requirements, and gain insight into what it would be like to work in a particular field. These modules are typically shorter and allow for more opportunities to examine several career options.
Benefits of VR skills training: Cost savings, safety, and more
Besides the deep level of engagement and the ability for users to seamlessly apply new skills in reality, other benefits of VR training include long-term cost savings.
Josey Blumenshine, an Aviation Maintenance student at Southern Illinois University, explains that VR skills training allows students to practice complex procedures multiple times, especially scenarios that would not be easily replicated over and over again in the real world. Josey and his classmates have been able to use virtual reality simulations to master aircraft window repair to a degree that they wouldn’t have been able to do in real life:
”We would literally have to break a window on an aircraft every time we want to do a repair,” Josey says. “And we don’t want to do that for every trainee. It’s really nice just to have these simulated events and experiences that put you right there in the environment that you will be working at.”
Not only are schools and programs able to save on specialized equipment and tools; they can also save on consumables like paint, oil, and pipes. Additionally, instructors and employers no longer have to worry about new facilities that would typically have to be built to house these sorts of experiences.
VR skills training also gives students a much more forgiving and safe learning environment. Without the fear of sharp or heavy tools, fire, or harmful chemicals, students can build confidence and competence before performing tasks in real-life.
“The Transfr VR system allows you to work with sometimes dangerous equipment in a safe setting,” AmSkills CEO Tom Mudano says. “We don’t have to bring in a thousand-dollar piece of equipment or risk people damaging a million-dollar piece of equipment because they can do it virtually.”
Building a real future with VR skills training
Ultimately, VR career exploration and VR skills training were both designed to aid in specific goals: To help individuals succeed in well-paying careers that match their interests and allow for upward mobility and job security.
Schools and employers can use VR training to adapt to evolving work situations and train workers more quickly at a lower cost. VR simulations can not only boost participant engagement, but also ensure safety while simultaneously saving money that would otherwise go to consumable costs.
“The VR component allows someone to really learn the skills and get the repetitions that they need to be able to produce results in the field,” says Beau Pollock, TRIO Electric CEO. “This makes them highly sought after employees.”
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