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Virtual reality technology is being used to boost training and employment opportunities in New Zealand within the construction sector

The Ministry of Social Development has partnered with Joy Business Academy (JBA) to develop the Skills for Industry Virtual Reality Training and Employment Tool to improve opportunities for jobseekers and employers in the construction sector, upskilling people any time and anywhere.

The project is an example of how the Ministry of Social Development partners with organisations and sectors to foster training and employment opportunities for jobseekers and employers.

Minister for Social Development Hon Carmel Sepuloni says the government is committed to upskilling and training people on benefit and this virtual reality tool makes training more accessible and saves time and money.

“Jobseekers can try out tasks like driving a dump truck by using the virtual headset. They can make an informed decision about whether it’s a job they’ll like to pursue before going on expensive training courses. These tools also work well for some people where mainstream education doesn’t, particularly for those with limited literacy and numeracy skills,” Carmel Sepuloni said.

JBA founder and CEO James Coddington says the benefit of the tool is that jobseekers can try out real tasks like driving a dump truck by using the virtual headset. The experience enables them to make informed career decisions and ramp up their employability while employers can attract potential workers and fully assess their skills before making an offer.

Minister for Employment Hon Willie Jackson says the new tool may be virtual but its value is very real. “Three-quarters of the construction workforce are millennials, so it’s important to find tools they relate to. Virtual reality is their thing. It’s about getting people into work. It matches people who need work with employers who need staff.”

CEO of Civil Contractors New Zealand Peter Silcock says the virtual reality scenarios make industry more accessible for people starting their careers and showcases the reasons people love working in civil construction. “We have been working closely with the Ministry of Social Development to try and overcome the barriers preventing people from entering careers in civil construction. There are lots of jobs for people who don’t mind getting hands-on. Civil construction careers are challenging, meaningful and lucrative. We need to show people there’s a place for them in our industry.”

Mr Coddington further says education has been evolving beyond the classroom whiteboard for some time.

“This kind of VR education is  new on a global level. One of its biggest advantages is full immersion – no other medium can give users the feeling of ‘being there’ better than VR, because there are no distractions. The experience fully captures learners’ attention, and in doing so boosts their retention of information.

“It also transports learners, immediately, safely and under expert remote guidance, to a different world, and allows them to practice jobs that are technically difficult or expensive to repeat in real life. In the process, they develop physical memory and retain new information through the repetition of practical skills. It saves both trainees and employers time and money, because it reduces typical basic training from four days to 45 minutes with little cost and virtually no risk.

“VR is also a powerful medium in its own right. As a training method it has a huge advantage because it allows learners to interact with a spatial representation of the information they’re receiving. Instead of just reading about an experience, learners can live that experience in a controlled environment. This makes it incredibly effective for upskilling and knowledge retention, as we remember 90 percent of what we do compared with just 10 percent of what we read.”

Mr Coddington says through simulation, interaction, and immersion, VR can challenge users’ understanding of the world and make them more empathetic.

“JBA’s education system also offers powerful potential for national and global connection – the untethered headsets mean it can be used anywhere, from schools to universities and technical training centres – including two players working together from different remote regions and being assessed by an instructor in a third location.

“It is also an important tool to engage those who may have great screen or game literacy but poor traditional literacy or numeracy. Untethered VR accommodates different learning styles and learners who have developed compensatory skills in place of literacy can leverage their abilities to train and qualify for employment.”

The new tool is intended to be piloted over the next six months to a year with a small group of MSD industry partnership employer and provider partners with the view to rolling out to the wider construction sector.

Earlier this year JBA launched Construction Tycoon, the latest in the Tycoon Series of educational games aimed at growing interest in industries with skills shortages. The Tycoon Series launched as a New Zealand industry partnership (partners include Microsoft, Xero, Ministry of Social Development, BDO and Building Construction Industry Training Organisation (BCITO)) in July 2018 and had over 18,000 downloads and 100,000 players in the first six months. The Tycoon games have been designed around the 10 core employability skills required for jobs in 2020, as identified by the World Economic Forum.


Fact Sheet

  • The Virtual Reality vocational training system developed by JBA is the first multiplayer, co-op assessment tool in the world;
  • Uses innovative, immersive technology to train workers in industries with skills shortages including construction, hospitality and tourism, traffic control, health and safety;
  • This tool improves people’s access to the education sector. It’s an innovative way to help solve some of the world’s most pressing industry skills shortages;
  • JBA has partnered with Ministry of Social Development in New Zealand to develop the technology;
  • The Ministry of Social Development is committed to investing in new and groundbreaking education and training options in response to industry and economic evolution;
  • The untethered VR can reduce the time required for a new worker to go on to a job site from four days to 45 minutes;
  • Taps into skills and interests common in Gen Y and Z and engages them in an environment they’re familiar and comfortable with;
  • Eliminates the high cost of training centres and provides world-class training wherever there is a connection to the internet;
  • Eliminates exposure to physical risk while providing real-world experience;
  • Utilises state-of-the-art untethered Oculus Quest headsets;
  • The VR systems means students and trainees all over the world are able to ‘experience’ different professions in order to make an informed decision about their future careers;
  • Benefits for the jobseeker:
    • They’ll be better able to make an informed decision about which career they’ll be best suited to and most enjoy;
    • They’ll be able to train/upskill in a safe, efficient way wherever they live;
    • Those with limited literacy can qualify to enter the workforce and upskill in a manageable and validated way.
  • Benefits for the employer:
    • Better able to attract the right type of worker into areas with skills shortages;
    • Workers will arrive on the job already having had some skills training and also better understanding key employability skills (such as teamwork, problem-solving, time management, health and safety etc);
    • Much lower training costs (minutes instead of days) and the ability to assess key skills quickly as well as certain physical aptitudes (general vision, peripheral vision and spatial awareness, hand-eye coordination, reflexes etc).