VR-ELECTRICIANS: USING IMMERSIVE STORYTELLING FOR ATTRACTING STUDENTS TO THE ELECTRICAL TRADES
The electrical power industry is the backbone of America’s economic sector, supporting more than seven million American jobs. Considering how essential electricians are to society, it is not surprising that electricians’ employment from 2019 to 2029 is projected to have an eight percent growth rate, much faster than the average for all occupations.
However, it is widely recognized that the workforce shortage has been steadily increasing in the last few years and electricians are one of the top five most challenging craft positions to fill. Targeting young students and women represents one solid solution to the huge workforce shortage problem facing the industry. Researchers have suggested supplementing conventional recruiting and development methods with approaches that place more emphasis on creating active experiences that embrace state-of-the-art technologies.
This ELECTRI International study is the first effort to use immersive storytelling to attract candidates to the electrical trades using the virtual environment of real jobsites. This project introduces the Virtual Reality Electrician, a 360-degree immersive environment powered by virtual electricians to tell success stories of electrical trades and attract young students and women to join the industry.
Using the VR-Electrician system, electricians can expose the potential workforce to the electrical trade by transporting them to real electrical work environments through the power of VR. Students are encouraged to envision the possibility of working in the electrical industry through experiencing real stories with virtual electricians on real jobsites.
The researchers commissioned for this ELECTRI project included Jing Wen, a Ph.D. student in the M.E. Rinker School of Construction Management at the University of Florida. Her research interests include the technology of 360 panoramas, Augmented Reality, and Virtual Reality along with their applications in the field of construction education. Her research partner was Dr. Masoud Gheisari, an Assistant Professor in the Rinker School of Construction Management at the University of Florida, who leads the Human-Centered Technology in Construction (HCTC) research group.