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  • Writer's pictureMark Cullens

Transforming Employabilty Skills with VR

Updated: Feb 18

A report by the Institute for Employment Studies (IES) and the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) has documented the challenges facing young people post-pandemic, emphasizing that generational progress in the UK is stalling.

Developing employability skills is more critical than ever in the rapidly evolving job market, where technology and digital innovation shape every aspect of work. Virtual Reality (VR) has emerged as a groundbreaking tool, offering immersive experiences that can significantly enhance learning and skill acquisition. This blog post delves into how VR revolutionises employability skills, preparing individuals for future workplace demands.

Practicing Soft Skills in VR
Soft Skills in VR

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction

  2. Understanding Employability Skills

  3. The Rise of Virtual Reality in Learning and Development

  4. How VR Enhances Employability Skills 4.1. Communication Skills 4.2. Teamwork and Collaboration 4.3. Problem-Solving and Critical Thinking 4.4. Leadership and Management Skills 4.5. Adaptability and Flexibility 4.6 Emotional Intelligence

  5. Case Study- VR in Action

  6. The Future of VR in Employability Training

  7. Challenges and Considerations

  8. Conclusion

1. Introduction

The work landscape is transforming at an unprecedented pace, driven by automation, artificial intelligence, and other technological advances. In this context, employability skills—attributes that make an individual more employable—have gained paramount importance. Employers are increasingly looking for candidates who possess technical knowledge and excel in soft skills like communication, teamwork, problem-solving, and adaptability.

2. Understanding Employability Skills

Employability skills, often called "soft skills" or "transferable skills," are the bedrock upon which successful careers are built. Unlike technical skills specific to a particular job or industry, employability skills are versatile and valued across various sectors. They encompass a variety of attributes, such as effective communication, teamwork, adaptability, problem-solving, and the ability to learn and apply new information quickly.

Communication Skills: This involves speaking clearly and persuasively, listening actively, and expressing ideas in writing effectively. Communication extends to cross-cultural understanding and digital fluency in today's global workplace.

Teamwork and Collaboration: The ability to work well within a team, respect diversity, and actively achieve common goals is crucial. This skill includes the capacity to negotiate with others, resolve conflicts, and support group decisions.

Problem-Solving and Critical Thinking: Employers value individuals who can use logic and creativity to address challenges, make evidence-based decisions, and anticipate potential outcomes and implications.

Leadership and Management Skills: Beyond guiding teams and projects to success, these skills involve motivating others, setting strategic visions, delegating tasks efficiently, and managing resources effectively.

Adaptability and Flexibility: In a fast-changing work environment, being able to adjust to new situations, learn from experiences, and remain resilient in the face of challenges is essential.

Initiative and Self-Direction: Employers look for self-motivated candidates who can manage their workload, seek growth opportunities, and have a strong work ethic.

Developing these skills can significantly enhance an individual's employability, making them more attractive to employers and better equipped to navigate the complexities of the modern workplace.

Two women in a workplace
A Job Interview

3. The Rise of Virtual Reality in Learning and Development

Once a futuristic concept, virtual Reality (VR) technology has become a tangible and increasingly accessible tool for education and professional development. The rise of VR in learning and development marks a significant shift in how individuals acquire knowledge and skills. This technology provides immersive, interactive experiences that simulate real-world environments, allowing learners to practice and refine their abilities in a safe, controlled setting.

Immersive Learning Environments: VR creates a three-dimensional, computer-generated environment to explore and interact with. This immersive setting enhances learning by engaging multiple senses, leading to better information retention and a deeper understanding of complex subjects.

Scalability and Accessibility: As VR technology becomes more affordable and widespread, it opens up new possibilities for scalable learning programs. Remote learners can access high-quality, interactive training sessions from anywhere in the world, breaking down geographical and logistical barriers to education.

Customization and Flexibility: VR platforms allow highly customized learning experiences tailored to individuals' needs and learning styles. This personalized approach can accommodate different levels of expertise and learning paces, making education more inclusive and effective.

Real-World Application: One of the most significant advantages of VR in learning and development is its ability to simulate real-life scenarios. From medical procedures and engineering projects to soft skill simulations like public speaking or crisis management, VR enables learners to gain practical experience without the real-world risks or resources typically required.

Engagement and Motivation: VR's interactive and engaging nature has increased learner motivation and engagement. The novelty and excitement of VR learning can help capture learners' attention, encouraging active participation and long-term engagement with the material.

Integrating VR into learning and development strategies represents a paradigm shift in education. By providing immersive, realistic, and personalized learning experiences, VR can transform the way employability skills are developed, making learning more effective, engaging, and accessible to a broader audience.

4. How VR Enhances Employability Skills

Virtual Reality offers a unique blend of immersive learning and practical experience, making it an invaluable tool in developing the critical employability skills needed in today's workforce. Below are detailed insights into how VR contributes to enhancing each essential employability skill:

Communication Skills

VR simulations can create a variety of social interactions and public speaking scenarios that mimic real-life settings. This immersive experience allows individuals to practice verbal and non-verbal communication in a safe and controlled environment, receiving immediate feedback on their performance. For example, VR can simulate a networking event or a team meeting, allowing learners to develop their listening skills, empathy, and the ability to articulate their thoughts clearly and effectively.

Teamwork and Collaboration

Through VR, individuals can participate in real-time collaborative projects and problem-solving exercises with virtual teammates or remote participants. This experience fosters a sense of teamwork and community and teaches the importance of diverse perspectives and collective effort in achieving common goals. VR can simulate complex, cooperative tasks that require coordination, negotiation, and compromise, skills directly transferable to the workplace.

Problem-solving and Critical Thinking

VR provides an immersive platform for presenting complex, real-world problems in a controlled setting. Users are encouraged to think critically, analyze data, and make decisions based on evolving scenarios. This kind of simulation can range from strategic business decisions in a corporate setting to technical troubleshooting under pressure. The immediate consequences of decisions within VR environments help reinforce learning and improve an individual's ability to apply logical and creative thinking to solve problems efficiently.

Leadership and Management Skills

Leadership and management training in VR can place individuals in high-stakes environments to lead a team, manage resources, and make critical decisions under pressure. These simulations can teach valuable leadership styles, conflict resolution, delegation, and motivation lessons. VR's immersive nature allows for a hands-on approach to developing these skills, offering a realistic taste of leadership challenges and the satisfaction of overcoming them.

Adaptability and Flexibility

The dynamic and ever-changing scenarios in VR simulations are ideal for teaching adaptability and flexibility. Users can be exposed to a wide range of situations that require quick thinking and the ability to pivot strategies on the fly. This training is particularly valuable in preparing individuals for the unpredictable nature of today's job market, where technologies and job roles are constantly evolving.

Emotional Intelligence

VR can also enhance emotional intelligence by simulating social interactions and scenarios that require empathy, self-awareness, and the management of emotions. These simulations can range from difficult conversations with virtual colleagues to providing feedback or dealing with challenging customers, helping users develop the emotional skills necessary for effective interpersonal interactions in the workplace.

5. Case Study: VR in Action

Bodyswaps leverages the power of immersive VR technology to create realistic scenarios where learners can practice and refine their soft skills. This approach is efficient in areas that are traditionally challenging to teach, such as empathetic communication and inclusive leadership. By partnering with renowned subject matter experts and leading institutions, Bodyswaps ensures that its training modules are engaging and grounded in real-world relevance and effectiveness. You can view the Bodyswaps Library here

A screen shot from Bodyswaps
Bodyswaps Public Speaking Module in VR


The Role of AI in Personalized Learning

One of the unique aspects of Bodyswaps is its use of generative AI to offer personalized learning journeys. This technology enables repeatable contextual practice and provides precise behavioural feedback, enhancing the learning experience. Whether it's for students in higher education or professionals in the healthcare and corporate sectors, Bodyswaps tailors its training to meet the specific needs of its users.

A user performance feedback dashboard
Bodyswaps AI Feedback

Digital Energy case studies

6. The Future of VR in Employability Training

The new Apple Vision Pro, with its advanced mixed reality (MR) capabilities, bridges the gap between the virtual and the real world, creating immersive experiences that are far more integrated with the user's environment. The development of high-resolution colour pass-through could revolutionize soft skills training by providing more nuanced and contextually rich scenarios for learners. The integration of virtual elements with the real world could facilitate more engaging and effective learning experiences, fostering a deeper understanding and retention of soft skills. The Apple Vision Pro's potential to offer customizable and interactive scenarios in a more naturalistic setting positions it as a powerful tool in the future of soft skills development, offering learners a more intuitive and immersive way to hone their abilities.

7. Challenges and Considerations

Managing VR headsets can present challenges, particularly when it comes to talking users through menus that you can't actually see. There's also the intricacies of controlling access to device menus and device app stores, which users can (and will) stray into.

Additionally, staying on top of manufacturers' and app provider updates is critical, as these are necessary for optimal performance but can be unpredictable. One of the most obvious challenges is the difficulty in monitoring what users see within their VR environment; unlike traditional digital tools, VR's immersive nature makes it hard for instructors or administrators to provide real-time assistance or ensure users are engaging with the correct content.

There are software solutions to assist with controlling the user experience to limit access to menus known as Mobile Device Management (or MDM) software. Here is a more detailed blog post on How to Manage a Fleet of VR Headset.

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Further Reading

Author Bio

Mark Cullens is the founder of Digital Energy Group Ltd and brings 30 years of experience in skills and learning development. Working with VR headsets in the real world of Universities, Local Authorities, and Colleges gives him a practical insight into the unique benefits of VR and the challenges of using VR for soft skills development. Working closely with Bodyswaps, he provides pre-configured devices with onsite training and support.

Digital Energy

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