Tampa Bay Area Workforce Nonprofit Combats Manufacturing Labor Shortage With Both Hands-On and Virtual Reality Training

AmSkills uses virtual reality simulations, along with actual hands-on training, to help retrain displaced workers for manufacturing careers

HOLIDAY, Fla.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–AmSkills, a Tampa Bay Area-based nonprofit that provides workforce training and apprenticeships for the manufacturing industry, announced initial results from an ambitious new workforce development partnership that combines the power of virtual reality with the real-time benefits of hands-on training. Together, these training devices help workers deepen their experiences in the field of manufacturing and prepare for good-paying jobs in Florida.

Built in collaboration with virtual reality startup TRANSFR, the AmSkills Career Discovery Bootcamp is designed to support reskilling and reemployment for individuals who have lost their jobs due to COVID as well as career-changers, military veterans, and other career-seekers in the region.

“Florida is now home to more than 20,000 manufacturing businesses, and we’re seeing steep demand for manufacturing talent across the state of Florida. These are good-paying, stable careers that offer a bridge to the workforce of the future for people from a wide range of personal and professional backgrounds,” said Tom Mudano, CEO of AmSkills. “This work is about helping learners from all walks of life—from homeless mothers and returning veterans to high school students—explore the world of manufacturing work and access better career options. Ultimately, the participants in these bootcamps are getting jobs in the manufacturing sector right here on Florida’s Gulf Coast.”

According to the National Association of Manufacturers, Florida manufacturers account for 5.32% of the state’s total economic output (or $58.88 billion), employing 384,000 workers at an average annual wage of $73,811.28. The Florida Senate’s newly-formed Manufacturing and Supply Chain caucus, which includes 16 legislators committed to statewide investment in manufacturing, met earlier this month as part of a push to expand manufacturing across the state. Manufacturing, distribution and supply chain represent a significant source of economic activity in the Tampa Bay region and I-4 corridor, in part due to its close proximity to the major exporting hub at the Port of Tampa, the largest in the state of Florida based on throughput.

To help meet growing demand for manufacturing talent in the region, AmSkills’ two-week training offers an onramp into the fast-growing manufacturing industry by immersing learners in lifelike simulations that vividly recreate the experience of working in multiple aspects of manufacturing. Results have been promising; the AmSkills training program has an average of 80% hire rate and 84% retention rate after 90 days on the job, significantly higher than industry average.

The bootcamp was developed in collaboration with more than 40 local employers across the Tampa Bay area to help address the needs for entry-level manufacturing talent. AmSkills operates its training program at no cost to participants, using mobile training facilities that bring training and career exploration capabilities to training centers and low-income communities in Pasco, Pinellas, and Hillsborough counties. Over time, AmSkills plans to expand and scale its manufacturing training offerings in other parts of Florida.

Trainees in the program benefit from wraparound support and career assistance services, such as interview prep and resume assistance, and after completing, each trainee participates in guaranteed interview opportunities with multiple companies. The program also supports employee retention by pairing trainees with a coach to help support the transition to the manufacturing workforce during the critical first 90 days on the job.

“By giving workers the chance to experience the excitement of modern manufacturing work, we can help aspiring professionals not only explore career paths they would otherwise never consider, but also help them take the next step toward building the skills they need to access these careers,” said Bharani Rajakumar, CEO of TRANSFR. “Reskilling workers for the manufacturing workforce is a key example of how we can create pathways to prosperity in underserved communities, while employers in a fast growing sector of Florida’s economy meet their ambitious hiring goals.”

About AmSkills: AmSkills is a 501(c)(3) organization with a mission to “transform lives through workforce training and apprenticeships.” AmSkills teaches high school students and adults the foundational skills needed for a career in the manufacturing industry using hands-on training. It also gives these students the chance to explore multiple career paths in the manufacturing field. Once completed, candidates are eligible for paid, semi-skilled jobs or skilled apprenticeship opportunities.

About TRANSFR: TRANSFR is a workforce development platform that uses simulation-based training to give students and job-seekers the hands-on skills they need to get well-paying jobs. Together with community leaders, workforce development organizations, educational institutions, and business and industry, we are building a classroom-to-career pipeline to raise up people, the organizations where they learn and work, and the communities that they call home.

TRANSFR’s hands-on simulations provide an immersive learning environment that gives students and job seekers the real-world experience they need to choose a career path and then get trained to perform it. Guided by a digital coach, they receive expert, personal instruction that introduces them to different careers, teaches them how to perform essential tasks, gives feedback based on their specific actions, and assesses progress toward mastery of skills in real time. Those who have partnered with TRANSFR have used the training to help job seekers understand their career options, develop more skilled workers, place more people in jobs, and see improved job retention rates. For more information, visit transfrvr.com.


Ben Watsky


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