How VR training is transforming lives
Learning matters - a lot. When you get it right, the whole business benefits. Companies with strong learning cultures see retention rates rise by up to 50%. It’s why innovative organizations like Pixar and McDonald’s actually build their own internal universities.
But at the same time, it’s one of those things that a lot of other businesses struggle with. According to the same survey, 74% of employees feel like they aren’t reaching their full potential at work due to a lack of development opportunities.
It’s not like companies aren’t trying, either. Total spending on training in the US passed $100bn for the first time in 2022. The real challenge is how to do it effectively.
Enter James Coddington, founder and CEO of SkillsVR. By his own admission, James didn’t set out to form a VR company to revolutionize corporate L&D. Then again, sometimes the best ideas - and the best businesses - emerge kind of by accident.
SkillsVR uses virtual simulations to train, educate and upskill people from all walks of life, helping employers build stronger businesses and employees build stronger futures. Because after all, learning leads to growth, growth gives us choices, and choices, well, they’re what freedom is all about. Read on to learn more.
Meta for Work Explores: Take us back in time to when you first started SkillsVR. What inspired you to start a virtual reality company?
James Coddington: There was a massive growth in youth unemployment in New Zealand and we wanted to understand why. We spent three years giving unemployed youths the opportunity to own and run their own business. We discovered these young graduates were out of work because they had a massive gap in their employability skills. They had no problem-solving skills, no critical thinking, no interpersonal skills, no resilience. All of those elements we aren’t always taught in our everyday lives.
We took those three years and bottled them up into e-learning modules. But we found that e-learning didn’t have the engagement or the immersive nature we were looking for. So about six years ago, we fell into VR. And that's where SkillsVR started.
MFWE: Could you summarize five skills that companies can learn using SkillsVR virtual reality training?
JC: Wow, only five? Let's focus on employability skills because that crosses every industry. We have five pillars as an organization, and we provide these pillars to every high school student in America free of charge. The first one is financial literacy, the second is sustainability, the third is mental health and wellbeing, the fourth one is diversity, equity and inclusion, and the fifth one is conflict management. Those are five pillars that we deliver across every industry. It doesn't matter whether it's a quick service restaurant or you’re on a construction site, you need to have all five of those skills to be a better human. We talk about providing training for humans to be better humans.
MFWE: How do you quantify the tangible impact that SkillsVR has on its customers?
JC: One of the best things we’ve seen across all industries is taking people into environments that are unfamiliar and being able to train them really fast. Upwards of five to 10 times faster than in a traditional environment.
In construction, for instance, you have to do some compliance training around safety before you are allowed to go on-site. We're able to do that in about 30 minutes compared to sitting in a classroom for six hours. If a company has anything from 50 to 100,000 workers and you're taking away six hours of training, you’ve saved that company a substantial amount of time. Plus we’re seeing sustainable employment outcomes are much higher because they’re being trained more effectively.
MFWE: When you think about that impact, what are you most proud of?
JC: One of the best things that we do are these job expos for schools and people that are out of work. They don't have a lot of confidence, they're looking down at the ground, avoiding eye contact. But then they put the headset on and 20 minutes later their eyes are alive. They have a smile on their face.
We've seen some incredible results from these individuals. Perhaps it's creating their own business. Perhaps it's working in an industry they've always wanted to work in. We're able to give them qualifications and certifications through VR that would take days, weeks, or months in a traditional setting. Seeing how we're able to change people's lives is the most rewarding thing we as a company could do.
MFWE: What do you say to business leaders who are resistant to VR training?
JC: I don't say too much to the people who are very skeptical. I just put a headset on them. I've still never heard anybody who's put a headset on and experienced VR come away and say, ‘Oh yeah, I don't think this works.’ Whatever industry they're from they can see how they could adopt it. Once you’ve had the seeing-is-believing-moment, it’s easier to talk about the pragmatic advantages of being smarter, safer, faster and cheaper. This is what we mean about the superpowers of VR versus traditional learning. The immersive experience is so much more powerful in unleashing the potential of the individual. You really can make the seemingly impossible possible.
MFWE: What’s next for SkillsVR?
JC: We launched our content creation kit to our first enterprise customers a few months ago, and we're really excited about where the future can lie in that. A lot of that relates to the intersection of all the different technologies coming together, from AI to VR to our platform. Our enterprise customers can now create their own content with their phones and easily upload it to our platform to create 3D environments. They can quickly and simply utilize our tools to create compelling learning experiences in VR and then share that across their organization.
We're at the starting phase of that, and I get really excited about the utilization of the AI tools that have come out. Being able to use these different technologies to create this incredible experience for our customers, because we know that the biggest limitation with our customers is their ability to scale content. That's the future - and it’s really exciting.