VCC student, Ahmed Mohsin holding the virtual reality headset he used to practice his job interview skills.
Participating in job interviews can be stressful. For Ahmed Mohsin, who is currently enrolled in Vancouver Community College's (VCC) Automotive Collision and Refinishing program, learning the skills to do the job was one thing. Impressing a potential employer in a job interview was another. He was eager to practice the communications skills that would help him land a job as an auto body technician once he graduates.
He signed up to participate in VCC’s innovative virtual reality (VR) pilot project that uses a blend of artificial intelligence (AI) and VR as a way to practice job interview skills and to help students transition into the job market.
“[It] allowed us to gain experience in giving job interviews without having the pressure of a real job on the line,” says Ahmed.
The project was launched last fall after VCC and local software company Virtro received the exciting news from Co-operative Education and Work-Integrated Learning Canada (CEWIL) that they were the successful recipients of $335,000 in program development funding. The funding enabled the college to provide 200 students, like Ahmed, with an Oculus Quest 2 virtual reality headset pre-installed with two VR programs developed by Virtro: BeConfident and LincLingo. The programs generate thousands of different scenarios for students to master discipline-specific interview skills, practice communication skills, and ultimately, bridge the gap between classroom and the workplace.
“CEWIL Canada is pleased to support innovative WIL experiences for students at Vancouver Community College where students have been able to receive financial support and recognition for their WIL experience,” says Charlene Marion, Director WIL at CEWIL Canada. “Funds such as these aim to eliminate barriers to WIL and increase access for all post-secondary students.”
The results of the pilot project were encouraging. The vast majority of students found the tool beneficial for working on interview skills and more than two-thirds of participants reported feeling less anxious about job interviews. Seventy-eight percent of participants expressed interest in having access to the tool before going to a real interview.
Adds Ahmed, “I was faced with questions that I hadn’t come across before. [I]f it wasn’t for the [virtual reality] headset, I would not be able to answer the questions comfortably in a real-world situation. I was able to do all of this just from the comfort of my own home, which was super helpful.”
According to the 2022 BC Labour Market Outlook, there will be one million job openings in the province during the next 10 years. The top two skills employers are looking for is active listening and speaking. This collaborative project focusses on building skills which enables students to feel more confident in their ability to communicate and listen. As a result, students will be able to transition into the labour market much faster.
“Knowing what to expect and being able to practice interview skills in a realistic and immersive environment is a huge confidence builder for students,” says Brett Griffiths, VCC’s Dean, School of Trades, Technology, and Design. “It also gives VCC and Virtro the opportunity to make improvements for future students and users. It’s a winning scenario for everyone involved and we’re grateful for our partnership with Virtro and support from CEWIL Canada that made this possible for all VCC students.”
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Click here for more information about the media release for this project.