Virtual and Augmented Reality

AR, VR and How the Gamification of Training Can Help Disadvantaged Populations

Cynthia Hutchison, Automation Alley
June 18, 2021
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A look at how AR and VR can be used to help disadvantaged populations thrive.

I went to Hannover Messe 2019 as part of Automation Alley's Trade Mission prepared to be visually assaulted with technology, automation and extraordinary visions of the future. Of course, I was not disappointed.

There were vehicles fitted with technology to notify drivers of fatigue, the latest in factory and office automation, innovations in energy generation, environmental sensors for maintaining clean water, fully connected homes, cars and cities, and training glasses, goggles and software, just to name a few of the technologies and gadgets on display.

It is the latter--the gamification of training--that really gave me hope for the future. While we fret about the impact of artificial intelligence and automation on future jobs, we continue to slow our nation’s growth due to lack of human resources.

In my role at Automation Alley, I hear daily about the 50 openings, 400 openings, line slow-downs and other consequences of a booming economy coupled with a retiring skilled trades workforce. We cannot produce this talent at a rate fast enough to backfill. Training programs are bogged down, and, while higher education is transforming and reforming curriculum, there is still a gaping hole.

Concurrently, we have a significant percentage of the U.S. population either unemployed or underemployed, often no longer a part of standard U.S. unemployment numbers. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the labor participation rate is 63%, meaning 37% of the people between ages 16 and 64 are either not looking for work or underemployed.

At this point, I must tell you I know a bit more about this topic than one might expect. My 29-year-old son has Down syndrome and ticks all the boxes employers ask for. Desire to work? Check. Shows up on time every day? Check. Passes drug test? Check. And yet, because no one quite knows how to customize training for him, he works 15 hours a week at a restaurant. There are literally thousands of people like him for whom work is desirable. There are equally great numbers of underutilized and disenfranchised people, often inner-city young adults, who did not have adequate preparation for work. They come to you with patchy backgrounds and sparse resumes, but a deep desire to see a path forward. Without complete academic credits, many of these young adults learn best in a virtual or augmented reality environment.

There are many dynamic technologies that will change your business, the biggest change might just be the gamification of training, taking a calculated risk on a new training method that uses AR and VR.

Look at your position with highest turnover and/or highest repeatability. Find a service provider who can support you with AR and VR training. This is a game-changer for a population waiting for opportunities. A good AR/VR product is one that reduces pressures on new employees as he/she develops the skills necessary to tackle a much-needed job in your organization.

I would like to see Automation Alley and our member companies lead Michigan in engaging the veteran, the disadvantaged and those with differing abilities to fill the talent gap and move forward. They will help our state grow; we can fill jobs quickly, train rapidly and make a far-reaching impact as we provide opportunities that increase the total number of employed adults with appropriate training and options for their future. Let’s embrace this element of technology. Virtual and augmented reality training is here to stay and can help us win!

Cynthia Hutchison, Automation Alley
Cynthia Hutchison, Automation Alley

Cynthia Hutchison is Vice President of Automation Alley, a globally recognized Industry 4.0 knowledge center and a World Economic Forum Advanced Manufacturing Hub (AMHUB), where she oversees program development, operations, sales, marketing and government affairs efforts for the nonprofit association's portfolio of 1,100-plus technology and manufacturing member companies across Michigan.

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