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AIDT teams for unique job-training initiative using virtual reality simulation

MONTGOMERY, Alabama — AIDT, Alabama’s primary workforce development agency, is teaming with Hyundai Power Transformers USA and a firm specializing in virtual reality technologies on a revolutionary jobs training program.

The collaboration with immersive learning startup TRANSFR stands to make cutting-edge job training accessible to thousands of unemployed workers and aspiring manufacturing professionals across the state.

“By putting this powerful solution in the hands of employers like 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 of 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,” he added.

HPT manufacturers power transformers used in electrical grids across the U.S. at a plant in Montgomery. The company announced a $33 million “smart factory” project in 2018.

“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 HPT.

“It’s providing employers like us with a powerful new tool to train, recruit, and hire talent right here in Alabama.”

SIMULATING A FACTORY

At the core of the unique program is a simulation of HPT’s seven-story manufacturing facility developed by TRANSFR.

Within the simulation, workers gain first-hand invaluable experiences with the safety protocols required to operate heavy machinery and equipment of up to 400 tons, lifting power transformers as heavy as 800,000 pounds.

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 fulfill growing demand from major manufacturers like HPT.”

New York-based TRANSFER has previously worked with other Alabama employers, including Mazda Toyota Manufacturing and Alabama Power.

The startup is also collaborating with the Alabama Community College System and is involved in Jumpstart AL, a new statewide program that aims to create the next-generation of workers.

(Courtesy of Made in Alabama)