Tooling U-SME, a provider of manufacturing training solutions, has launched Virtual Labs—an immersive VR training curriculum that enhances productivity, increases safety, lowers costs, and engages a younger workforce.
As Smart Technology continues to exert rapid changes in manufacturing, Tooling U-SME is helping the industry adapt by providing state-of-the-art delivery methods and leading-edge content to upskill the workforce.
“Just as the manufacturing industry is embracing technology to move better and faster into the future, we can also optimize training and its effectiveness and scalability through leveraging technology,” said Jeannine Kunz, Chief Workforce Development Officer at SME.
Using a Meta Quest 2 headset or through a desktop or laptop computer, trainees can tap into applied learning through VR. By providing realistic, immersive experiences for learners to work with simulated equipment, Tooling U-SME Virtual Labs accelerates competency for real-world manufacturing skills.
“Our Virtual Labs help manufacturers and educators engage, onboard, and upskill learners to build a high-performing, advanced manufacturing workforce and, ultimately, strengthen the industry’s competitiveness.” — Jeannine Kunz, CWD – SME
“As Smart Manufacturing revolutionizes the industry, our mission is to elevate workforce knowledge and capabilities for individuals, manufacturers, educational institutions, and workforce development organizations so they are ready for what’s here and what’s next," said Chad Schron, senior director for Tooling U-SME.
Applied Learning Model
Tooling U-SME uses a blended three-pronged learning approach: Learn, practice, and perform. The approach was successfully tested and streamlined through an 18-month pilot program with manufacturers of varied sizes.
First, learners build on their previous knowledge acquired in the prerequisite Tooling U-SME online classes covering subjects from machining, maintenance, and welding to Smart Skills such as additive, digital, cybersecurity, and robotics & automation.
Then they practice as they navigate the virtual environment, demonstrating that they can understand and follow instructions, perform tasks in a manufacturing setting, and answer questions.
Finally, through on-the-job training, they perform each task on the shop floor or in the classroom.
“This immersive learning lab experience includes a virtual team leader in a bright, clean, modern facility and allows for repeated practice after students or employees gain a baseline knowledge through their eLearning curriculum and before training on real equipment.”
The company chose Meta Headsets because they're relatively inexpensive and easy to use, providing a low barrier to entry. As an alternative, Virtual Labs is also available on laptops and desktops—similar to computer gaming—for those without a headset.
Virtual Labs covers safety, inspection, assembly, welding, and additive. For each lab, customers receive a skills guide that provides a structured way to set up and integrate the new technology into a blended learning approach.