$80M effort to place VR career labs in Indiana schools – Inside INdiana Business

Mockup of a VR Career Lab concept at Ivy Tech. (image courtesy: VisionThree Inc.)

Indianapolis-based technology company VisionThree Inc. is launching an estimated $80 million initiative to place virtual reality career labs in every high school and college in Indiana by 2025. V3CONNECT is intended to give students a chance to explore possible careers in a virtual environment. “What do my future career interests look like?” How does my education need to align to that,” explained VisionThree Director of Strategic Partnerships Dawn Lang.

In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, Lang said many students graduate high school and pursue a post-secondary education before realizing their intended career path may not be a good fit.

“The goal is to really get them encouraged and excited earlier in the process to have them put on the VR headsets, to see a day in the life like what does it look like to be a technician in a pharmaceutical company? What does it look like to be involved in a semiconductor company? And what are the job opportunities there,” said Lang.

LISTEN: Lang explains to Inside INdiana Business reporter Wes Mills how the initiative will help guide students.

V3 specializes in virtual reality, augmented reality and touch-interactive technology that is used by multiple companies, such as Rolls-Royce, Eli Lilly & Co, Corteva Agriscience, to train employees and customers in an immersive environment. The same could work for students or job recruits.

V3 Chief Revenue Officer Heather Jackson says by launching the CONNECT initiative and providing access to students, it is responding to what employers are seeking: a reliable source for trained workers.

“When we would ask people, what’s your biggest problem, we kept hearing talent pipeline,” said Jackson. “We started to realize that there was this opportunity. So, we started imagining, ‘okay, how can we turn this into something in virtual space, that has a real impact?'”

LISTEN: Jackson further explains the need for the service.

Jackson says the approximately $80 million initiative to place the high-tech labs in schools throughout Indiana will require the support of corporate sponsorships, grants and philanthropic gifts. Part of the costs would be offset by fees charged to the companies who place content in the system.

“There’s going to be a cost associated with each of the labs. There are significant costs in that hardware, upkeep maintenance,” said Jackson. “We want to be a very low resource intensive solution inside a school or an organization. What we don’t want to do is create a barrier, because of the cost of getting the lab.”

Early partners in the project include Ivy Tech Community College, InnoPower, PivotCX, Field of Talent and the Indiana Economic Development Corp. who share a common goal to improve the workforce talent pipeline in Indiana.

“We are honored to work with our colleagues at VisionThree to bring this program to life,” says Caroline Dowd-Higgins, vice president of career coaching and employer connections at Ivy Tech. “At Ivy Tech, we are passionate about empowering students with career development tools that lead to high-demand, high-earning careers, and V3CONNECT is a significant innovation that will help us achieve these goals.”

Plans include the establishment of career labs, initially at Ivy Tech campuses, that provide kiosks for students to explore careers. Lang says for a generation of users who were raised on gamification, adoption of the technology will not be foreign.

“If anything, the adoption is going to be more for those on the other side, that have not really taken this to heart and using it in their day-to-day lives, whether it’s for gamification or otherwise, but to really seek to understand how to maximize that,” said Lang.

Jackson says development for a phase one fall launch of V3CONNECT is underway. The company is partnering with Vanderbilt University to build peer-reviewed studies to examine results.

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