Female student wearing a virtual reality headset

Students at Central Saint Michael’s have been testing innovative VR tech in a global project to help young people improve their workplace and career skills.

The college’s Fab Lab has been working alongside Bodyswaps in a programme replicated as far afield as Paris and Toronto, using VR for sixth formers to practise their soft skills before they start to apply for jobs and universities.

As the name of the company running the study suggests, the students have literally been able to ‘swap bodies’ and see themselves reacting to job interview situations through virtual reality headsets. The software allows students to hear themselves, watch their behaviour and even assess their posture so that they can make the necessary improvements.

The results of the programme have been overwhelmingly positive with 84% of students saying that they now feel more confident about the prospect of a ‘real life’ interview.

Ben Haddock, Emerging Technologies Demonstrator in the Fab Lab, says: “There are a lot of things students aren’t taught about at school. Things like posture, body language, and eye contact. Employers expect work-ready job candidates and there is mounting pressure on institutions to make social skills training part of the curriculum. These skills are just the sort of things that Bodyswaps teaches students that they don’t currently learn about in the classroom.”

Bridgette Bennett, Head of the Professions and Innovations Academy, thinks that Bodyswaps has already had a tremendous impact on learners. She says: “We’re seeing confident students now going off to interviews and getting the jobs.”

Central Saint Michael’s Sixth Form is no stranger to innovation. In 2016 it opened its Fab Lab, a high-tech maker space and digital innovation hub, equipped with the latest technologies, ranging from 3D printers to laser cutters, to VR headsets. The college is now looking to build a dedicated ‘Bodyswaps Experience’ area so that students can practise for upcoming job interviews inside private training booths.

Christophe Mallet, CEO and Co-Founder at Bodyswaps says: “Working with the Fab Lab, we’ve seen first-hand not only great engagement from students but actual improvement in their skills and confidence. When technology disappears behind its transformative impact, there’s no going back to the old ways.”

The college plans to make VR soft skills training available to all students by the end of 2022.

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