July 18, 2024

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‘I got a better shot’: Virtual reality technology helps Chicagoans get training and future jobs

‘I got a better shot’: Virtual reality technology helps Chicagoans get training and future jobs


CHICAGO (CBS) — A virtual reality simulation project is no game, but rather a serious new program where people are even being paid to participate.

CBS 2’s Steven Graves takes us to Chicago’s South Side to show us how the VR experience aims to provide real life lessons.

Kenneth Gresham admits he is not one for playing games. But this is something he can get used to

“Once I got involved in it, it’s interesting.”

“It” is a virtual reality world. But this one teaches job skills in manufacturing. From safety practices to simulated physical labor.

“I just came home three weeks ago from prison. I just think this program helps a lot. It helps boost you up.”

The boost is coming out of Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood. It’s where organization Teamwork Englewood is taking a new approach to placing formerly incarcerated people into entry level jobs.

“Virtual reality doesn’t leave anyone behind. You work at your own pace,” said Mark Mitchell, Associate Director of Teamwork Englewood. 

The goal with visualizing things is to make sure people gain that confidence to not only get the job, but retain it. The program is even treated like a job.

“If you come back late, you get a red sticker.”

And if you finish, a $1,000 stipend comes your way. Funded by the city, the grant program is using technology from company Transfr, which has been doing training simulations since 2017. Industry leaders have come away impressed with the program.

“So far, it’s been a positive, positive experience for them. Because it gets them ready at a faster pace without using any resources to get them there,” said Terrence Purvis, Workforce Advisor at Transfr.

Teamwork Englewood said its research shows that is important. Because for their typical, middle-aged client, an urge to get employed is highest within three months after getting released.

“Meaning if he isn’t employed within 90 days…well, you can forget about it.”

Gresham is confident that will not be him.

“I got a better shot, I got a better shot.”

A virtual reality in preparation for real life. The pilot program is wrapping up its first two weeks now. Teamwork Englewood will then start placing participants in jobs.

Openings for another round of applicants will happen soon.


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