Virtual reality of workplaces could "revolutionize" interest in skilled trades: Indigenous consulting firm unveils technology to deliver interactive work experiences.

Author:Ross, Ian
Position:NEWS - Origin Recruitment

A northwestern Ontario recruiting firm is entering the virtual reality realm to help steer more Indigenous people into the industrial workforce.

"We're taking the old-school workplace tours and bringing it to the individual," said Paul Giles, co-owner of Origin Recruitment, a Fort William First Nation and Thunder Bay-based Indigenous-owned consultancy.

Since starting Origin in 2010, it's been the mission of Giles and his wife, Melissa Hardy-Giles, to increase First Nation participation by matching people's inate skills with industry needs.

With their job-readiness programs and mobile heavy equipment simulators, the company's calling card has been about eliminating the guesswork in the trainee selection process.

In taking a technical and scientific approach to pre-employment screening and evaluation, they assess an individual's aptitude, suitability, and confidence by sorting out and slotting them into potentially rewarding careers that best fit their natural abilities.

From there, they can direct job seekers into employment opportunities, apprenticeship programs, or other levels of training.

"We're trying to revolutionize the relationship between the communities, the employment and training providers, and employers," said Giles.

Since acquiring the equipment simulators in 2014, they've trailered them into 59 First Nation communities across Northern Ontario and Western Quebec, assessing the talents of thousands of job seekers.

In the last two years, Giles said they've placed 104 individuals into operator jobs in the construction and mining industry.

"We've had outstanding results, not only in being able to connect people with the right careers but to get good results in terms of placing people into employment."

The new virtual reality platform, Giles said, was developed in tandem with an undisclosed Toronto high-tech firm, and faculty at the University of Toronto, and the University of Waterloo.

They're building a diverse library of work-site experiences, allowing job seekers, donned with a headset, to view an introductory day-in-the-life of such skilled occupations as an underground miner, pole-line crew, or other construction-based fields where there is high demand for people.

"We're forming a team that will include an industry partner," said Giles.

Their first-stage video platform provides an immersive 360-degree experience, but Giles said its shortcomings are that there's no computer animation and limited interaction within a given...

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