Many young people in today’s labor market are out of work, and youth unemployment is a serious problem in many countries. Can VR help to mitigate this problem? The technology potentially has wider possibilities to engage and be accepted by the youth.
In the Virtual Internship project, we develop VR solutions to better inform, educate, and make young job seekers aware of the possibilities on the market. The goal of the project is to help young job seekers gain insights into different professions via immersive and interactive VR experiences, which we call “virtual internships”. The main target audiences of the project are job seekers who are under 24 years old who can be aided in selecting a career path at school or a welfare center, choosing the first or a new occupation, often after a period of being unemployed. The VR experience allows the user to explore and train in unfamiliar situations in a safe setting, thus mastering the same real-world situation with the goal of mastering the road to work. Although the concept includes the experience of workplace tasks and situations, the objective is not to learn how to perform, but rather to experience how it feels to perform such tasks.
In this project, we develop a concept of “Immersive Job Taste”, an interactive VR experience of a workplace that aims to give a feeling of going through an average workday of a professional with elements of basic training. Instead of simply presenting information about jobs and professions, we seek to directly convey the experiences of being a trainee at a workplace. It is important to note that Immersive Job Taste is different from workplace training as it only provides a ‘peek’ into a certain profession without necessarily covering all the details and specifics.
The project is implemented by a partnership between the Norwegian University of Science and Technology and the Norwegian Labour and Welfare Administration. The scenarios and the typical workplace tasks for each profession are being developed in collaboration with local industry and professional societies. The virtual internship apps and room-scale VR equipment have been installed and used in a test mode at selected career centers in Norway since 2019.
The catalogue of the Immersive Job Taste apps includes VR experiences of a fishery worker, wind turbine electrician, road construction worker, car mechanic, and tinsmith. Each VR app includes such components as a presentation of a workplace, several typical tasks, feedback on performance, gamification, and advice on applying for jobs in the specific industry. Selected scenarios allow collaboration, connecting users with and without VR headsets.
The results received while evaluating the VR apps indicate a generally very positive attitude towards the concept. We have examples of young unemployed who got permanent employment after trying the apps and discovering new career paths.
Further information in Norwegian only is available from the Norwegian Labour and Welfare Administration website.
Mikhail Fominykh, NTNU, Norway