Nonprofit Launches VR Training Program to Prepare Opportunity Youth for Construction Careers

Unique job training taps the power of virtual reality to prepare thousands of young people to thrive in the Bay Area’s fast-growing construction industry

SAN FRANCISCO–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Brightline Defense, an environmental justice nonprofit that works to empower communities and create sustainable environments, today announced a collaboration with CityBuild Academy and TRANSFR that will make construction industry job training accessible to thousands of low-income youth as part of a free, citywide program.

“Even amidst the pandemic, we have a unique opportunity to provide low-income youth with career-relevant training experience that can lead to good-paying jobs in growing industries,” said Eddie Ahn, executive director of Brightline Defense. “This is about reducing disparities in access to job opportunities and technology that affect low-income communities, and using emerging technology to equip young people with hands-on training for in-demand careers.”

Despite job losses in industries affected by COVID-19 restrictions, there are more than 118,000 jobs in construction that support the Bay Area’s multi-billion dollar industry. Meanwhile, hiring for environmentally sustainable construction and large renewable energy projects continues to increase as government agencies, communities, and employers respond to the threat of global climate change.

The youth job training program with Brightline Defense and CityBuild features innovative simulations developed by TRANSFR that enable students to gain access to immersive skills training without the in-person contact and close proximity of going into a jobsite.

“Given the challenges posed by COVID-19, we’re pleased to offer this safe training for high school students, particularly youth from underserved local communities,” said Ken Nim, Director of CityBuild Academy. “Innovation in our training leads to greater engagement from the community as well as offering new skill sets for our job trainees.”

The new program is part of the citywide Construction Sector Bridge Program, a collaborative initiative operated in partnership with local nonprofits Brightline Defense, Mission Hiring Hall, Community Youth Center (CYC), and A. Philip Randolph Institute of San Francisco (APRI-SF) and CityBuild Academy, a program of San Francisco’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development (OEWD) that offers pre-apprenticeship programs for union construction jobs. Every year, the Bridge Program provides free industry training and outreach to thousands of San Francisco youth ages 17-21 each year.

Based on early surveying, over 95% of participating students will be using immersive learning training for the first time. With 29% of San Francisco Unified School District students lacking internet access at home, students met outdoors in a Bayview-Hunters Point park with a Wi-Fi hotspot to ensure families without broadband access could participate. The Oculus Quest headsets were donated earlier in 2020 by Swinerton Builders, a major commercial construction company which also provides additional services in green building.

“At a time when youth are being forced to learn online and lack access to authentic hands-on learning experiences, this partnership aims to make skills training more relevant, engaging — and accessible,” said Bharani Rajakumar, CEO and founder of TRANSFR. “Enabling people of all ages to acquire the skills needed to thrive in growing industries is critical to building a more inclusive and sustainable economic recovery.”

To help workers develop hands-on skills required for on-the-job success, a growing number of employers are integrating new forms of work-based learning simulations to boost employee performance and retention. Local workforce agencies, schools, colleges, and employers across the country—including Lockheed Martin and Mazda Toyota Manufacturing—are now using TRANSFR’s suite of immersive learning technology and assessment tools.

About TRANSFR: At TRANSFR, we’re on a mission to make learning more intuitive by helping individuals develop the skills they need for career success. What began as an idea quickly transformed into a movement; TRANSFR is built on the understanding that we must disrupt the status quo to create a more prosperous future. We believe the future starts with innovative workplace training and hands-on skills development. We’re building bridges between schools, workplaces, and governments to make jobs more accessible and create a better tomorrow, today. Join us.


Ted Eismeier

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