Digitalization of Vocational Education and Training (VET) and career guidance received major attention in the research literature long before COVID-19. The pandemic emphasized the need for digitalization but also contributed to rising youth unemployment. Currently, 3.1 million young people in Europe aged 15-24 cannot find a job. The number of people not in education, employment or training aged 15-29 is 9.6 million, and they often cannot contribute in society because of low self-esteem, low motivation, low level of developing working skills and lack of mastery in school and in daily life. At the same time, youth already participating in education and training do not always receive adequate information about possible career choices. To include these groups in the working life or training programs, innovative solutions are needed. Research in digital career guidance emphasized online communication, video, chat, and other tools. Immersive technologies have been used in VET in several contexts, their use in career guidance is not explored.
The project proposes a new approach to VET and career guidance applying Virtual Reality (VR) to allow active and engaging exploration of professions and introductory training. This approach can give young job seekers a more realistic picture of different jobs and a vital learning experience that is needed for decision-making learning competence. The project will contribute to developing innovative digital career guidance methods, including young people with mental health and other employability challenges, supported by studies. The project will develop competence, counselling techniques for VET trainers and career advisors, boosting their digital competences, aligning with EU Youth Guarantee and Bridge to Jobs initiative.
The project will work with a wide target audience consisting of eight target groups:
(1) Young unemployed need a better understanding of different professions and their own abilities. VR4VET will meet their needs by making the process of learning about professions accessible, engaging and rewarding, focusing on developing the sense of mastery.
(2) VET learners need to acquire knowledge and skills required for a specific profession and they need to stay motivated and enjoy the learning process. VR4VET will partially meet their needs by including the training component in the VR profession modules, making them suitable for introductory VET.
(3) School pupils need a better understanding of different professions, their own interests, and of pros and cons of VET versus higher education. VR4VET will meet their needs by allowing them to explore different professions in a playful and fun way, providing an authentic experience of the profession, and allowing them to consider more options in making career choices.
(4) Employees at welfare organizations need to help the unemployed to get jobs and retain them more effectively. (5) VET trainers need to improve the VET process and outcomes, making VET and VET professions appealing to the learners. (6) Career guidance counselors need to more effectively facilitate better career choices, making career counseling an engaging experience for the target audience. VR4VET will meet the needs of these three groups by providing innovative resources for their practice and the necessary training to use them.
(7) University students need knowledge of their major subjects and soft skills, workplace-relevant experience, and a diverse and interesting study process. VR4VET will meet their needs by engaging them in project activity and interaction with different stakeholders.
(8) Academics need to build knowledge via new studies and cooperation, innovate through new ideas, and improve teaching with new approaches. VR4VET will meet their needs by providing them with a possibility to collaborate and supervise students in an open community, developing and evaluating innovative materials.