A virtual look at a real career

By AACC 21st Century Center Staff

Career exploration has gone virtual in Arkansas.

Hundreds of Arkansas residents have been able to access hands-on career exploration virtual reality simulations in the last six months. The simulations offer a real-world look into fast-growing jobs and industries, such as manufacturing, skilled trades, hospitality, public safety and automotive. Residents also receive information on how they can prepare for careers at community colleges and job training programs.

The program was launched through a partnership between Arkansas Community Colleges and the Arkansas Office of Skills Development (AOSD), a division of the Arkansas Department of Commerce, and economic development platform TRANSFR.

The pilot program is delivered through 14 community college partners across the state – many in rural and under-resourced communities.

“This statewide program is an example of how we can pair innovative technologies with our existing career and technical education resources to help more students prepare for new career horizons—and meet the skilled workforce needs of employers,” said Cody Waits, AOSD director.

Since the launch, more than 205 students throughout the state have participated. There are plans to serve more than 4,500 students in 2022.

Employers are jumping on board, too. Among the employer partners is manufacturer Altec. As part of the company’s effort to hire an additional 300 technicians across the country, Altec has sponsored the Altec Technician Education Program at Arkansas State University at Beebe. The program uses virtual reality to help students earn a Diesel Technology Certificate and prepare for technician roles within the Altec workforce.

“To address the shortage of skilled talent felt by employers in Arkansas and across the country, the first step is ensuring that students and early career professionals gain exposure to the wide range of skilled occupations that are in demand,” said Kenneth Calhoun, fleet optimization manager for Altec.

The program ties into Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s Ready For Life initiative, which connects job-seekers, educators and employers at a one-stop employment website that includes job openings and opportunities for continuing education.

Is your college using VR for career exploration? Sound off on LinkedIn.

AACC 21st Century Center Staff

is a contributor to the 21st-Century Center.