Polaris MEP Awarded America Works Mini-Grant for High School Virtual Reality (VR) Training

Home / News / Polaris MEP Awarded America Works Mini-Grant for High School Virtual Reality (VR) Training

by | Sep 20, 2021

Providence, RI – September 20, 2021 – To encourage exploration of manufacturing careers, Polaris MEP is launching a Virtual Reality pilot program funded by a “mini-grant” from America Works. America Works is a national initiative coordinating the manufacturing industry’s efforts to generate a more capable, skilled and diverse workforce. Polaris MEP, an affiliate of the national NIST Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership, was one of seven MEP Centers to win a mini-grant.

The virtual reality (VR) program will introduce Rhode Island high school students to a variety of manufacturing careers. VR headsets are used to give the students a career exploration experience which could include simulations of Robotics jobs, Assembler roles, Quality Assurance positions and other jobs.

“The exciting thing about this initiative is the way we’re partnering with Rhode Island’s leading Career and Technical Education programs,” said Lindsey Brickle, Senior Workforce Programs Manager for Polaris MEP. “We’ll bring VR headsets to the CTE, and their students can immerse themselves in today’s high-tech, high-skilled manufacturing jobs without ever leaving the classroom.”

Immersive Virtual Reality Training

The VR headsets are provided by and linked to Career Success services from TRANSFR VR. TRANSFR partners with industry and education to address the growing skills gap. One module lets students try a variety of on-the-job tasks linked to manufacturing careers. If a CTE student gets excited about a specific job, other VR modules immerse them in training simulations that develop skills valued by future employers.

Immersive training has been shown to have higher skill retention when compared to video tutorials, slide presentations, or other training methods. The mini-grant will be support one of several Polaris MEP initiatives to develop a pipeline of talent for jobs that are going unfilled while reducing cost and risk for Rhode Island employers.

These videos show simulated virtual reality experiences in action:

“Even before COVID you couldn’t easily tour a manufacturing facility, which meant high school students and parents often had a limited view of these jobs,” said Brickle. “By going virtual, we’ll be showing the real appeal of rewarding manufacturing careers.”

“We’re proud to have been selected by America Works for the mini-grant,” added Kathie Mahoney, Center Director, Polaris MEP, “and looking forward to collaborating with Rhode Island CTE programs on this unique classroom-to-career initiative.”

To learn more about or to get involved in the virtual reality pilot, please email lbrickle@polarismep.org

About Polaris MEP

Polaris MEP provides competitive business improvement programs to grow Rhode Island’s manufacturing industry. Polaris MEP is a statewide nonprofit organization. An affiliate of the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership (NIST MEP), the consultancy is a business unit of the URI Research Foundation.

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