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multiple Ames High Students use virtual reality to learn about careers
February 10, 2023

Students Learn About Careers Through Virtual Reality

On February 9, 2023, Ames High School students had the opportunity to use virtual reality to job shadow potential careers via CareerLabsVR. 

According to CareerLabsVR, which started in Brockville, Ontario, Canada, they “partner with industry leaders to create exploration simulations that allow job seekers and students to gain insight into experiences they would encounter ‘on the job’.” 

“The experience lasts about 20 minutes long and there are 26 different careers to choose from,” Torrey Proctor, Technology Innovation Consultant at Prairie Lakes AEA, said. “Anything from residential electrician, HVAC, plumber, robotics technician, it’s a long list. While they’re in VR, their boss will call them on a smart watch and welcome them to their first day on the job and tell them what to do.”

“They might have to read a blueprint, a section of a manual, put on personal protective equipment, drill, blowtorch, tape, all of the most common tasks for whatever they are trying out,” Proctor added.

Of the 26 careers available to demo in CareerLabsVR, Proctor’s favorite involves the most virtual hands on experience

“My favorite is pipe fitter, just because you get to use your hands a lot.” Proctor said. “Reading a blueprint, you’ll measure and use two hands to mark with the chalk. You cut, wrap a pipe, you work with ratchet straps, you communicate with coworkers, there’s just so many things to do.”

The benefits of CareerLabsVR’s “reality” revolves around those that might wish to pursue a career they experienced for 20 minutes. 

“It gives them hands-on experience and I’ve seen it build confidence, too,” Proctor said. “Once students have done it and have learned what all the common tasks are, and see that they can do it, it gives them an opportunity to have something they otherwise would have not stumbled across.”

When using the hand controllers, haptic feedback is noticeable. Haptic feedback can be compared to when a controller vibrates when you hit the wall in a NASCAR video game.

“When you’re using the tools, your hands do vibrate,” Proctor shared.

By having this available to students, there very well could be real world applications in terms of students and their possible future career. Transition Alliance Program Coordinator Kate Ringstad found out about CareerLabsVR through a graduate school friend that posted on social media that they use it at their school.

“If they (students) really like it (the career they are shadowing in VR), then I get the opportunity to take them out in the community and job shadow or get connected with an employer that is doing that job,” Ringstad said.