AIDT, Alabama's state workforce development agency, recently announced a statewide program in collaboration with Hyundai Power Transformers (HPT), the division of Hyundai Electric Systems that specializes in the manufacture of power transformers used in electrical grids across the United States. Built in collaboration with immersive learning startup TRANSFR, the partnership is making job training in one of Alabama's fastest-growing industries accessible to thousands of unemployed workers and aspiring manufacturing professionals across the state.
"This is an application of VR technology that extends well beyond what many of us are familiar with from gaming or consumer apps. It's about harnessing the potential of immersive learning to train and certify employees on critical, in-demand skills at unprecedented scale," said Tony Wojciechowski, chief human resource officer at the HPT. "It's providing employers like us with a powerful new tool to train, recruit, and hire talent right here in Alabama."
According to the National Association of Manufacturers, the manufacturing sector accounts for 17% of Alabama's total economic output (nearly US$38 billion as of 2018) and 13% percent of the state's jobs (271,000 total jobs as of 2019). The latest collaboration between the AIDT and the HPT is helping to address part of the ambitious state economic development goal set by Alabama Governor Kay Ivey in 2018 to add 500,000 highly skilled employees to Alabama's workforce by 2025.
"By putting this powerful solution in the hands of employers like the HPT, we're helping them to make good on their commitment to hire Alabama residents for good-paying manufacturing jobs," said Ed Castile, deputy secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce, and executive director, AIDT. "This is about not just meeting the training and safety needs of industry partners but also creating a repeatable and cost-efficient approach that can be applied in the context of other heavy industries, such as aviation and shipbuilding."
At the core of the public-private partnership is a simulation of the HPT's seven-story manufacturing facility developed by TRANSFR. Within the simulation, workers gain first-hand invaluable experience with the safety protocols required to operate heavy machinery and equipment of up to 400 tons, lifting power transformers as heavy as 800,000 lb.
The training initiative is helping to increase compliance with industry standards as HPT employees learn how to operate and service cranes within OSHA standards, using a highly repeatable and consistent training process.
"Alabama is leading the way in harnessing the potential of technology to unlock economic opportunity for citizens across the state," said Bharani Rajakumar, founder and CEO of TRANSFR. "This is about expanding access to complex and high-stakes training to fulfill the state's workforce development goals and meet growing demand from major manufacturers like the HPT."