Navigating Futures: Youth Job Readiness Using XR Pilot Study

Goolwa Secondary is Preparing Students for Future Careers

In term 4 of 2023, Goolwa Secondary College in South Australia initiated the ‘Summer Jobs Studio’ program, an innovative 8-week multidisciplinary endeavour aimed at Year 8 and 9 students. This program was designed and delivered by Deputy Principal and Lumination Lab Champion, Travis Roach.

As part of this program, students used a combination of traditional and immersive learning experiences – from learning about various summer jobs, preparing resumes, hands-on barista training, and mock interviews.

Background: 'Navigating Futures'

During their immersive learning experience, participants of the studio used the school’s Lumination Learning Lab to facilitate job exploration through a work experience simulation and an interactive mock job interview simulation.

The students used a virtual reality (VR) application called Work Window in week 3 (career exploration) and week 6 (job interview simulator) of the program. The program participants also used a VR barista training app (no longer available) that is similar to the Coffee Vendor VR app.

To measure the effects of the VR experience, students were given an online pre-XR (eXtended Reality) experience survey before week 3 and an online post-XR experience after the 8-week Studio program.

The surveys were designed to investigate four areas: confidence levels, job search knowledge and skills, expectations and perceptions of the XR experiences, and students’ personal career goals and aspirations.

As a result of the ‘Summer Jobs Studio,’ 50% of the participating students obtained summer employment, which they successfully retained beyond the summer break.

What is the Summer Jobs Studio?

The ‘Summer Jobs Studio’ is an opt-in multidisciplinary and multi year level subject that was taught as part of Goolwa Secondary College’s studio programs.

It was primarily designed to focus on preparing students for summer jobs and general part-time work opportunities, as well as potential career paths post-schooling.

Students were first assigned the task of creating resumes to present to a range of local Goolwa businesses, who would be conducting mock interviews at the end of the program.

Students also had to undergo different training sessions with various instructors, including a brief barista course from a local cafe.

The initial 8-week program was designed by Travis Roach. While conceptualising the program, he approached Shai Coggins (then, Learning Design Lead of Lumination) to ask about potential use of the Lumination Learning Lab during the studio program. They then discussed the possible use of Work Window as part of the program.

Using Work Window to Improve Job Readiness

Work Window is a career exploration and simulation XR application, to engage in hands-on job exploration and virtual work experience across a range of careers, including carpentry, firefighting, fitting and turning, landscape architecture and water engineering.

Students also participated in Work Window’s simulated job interview experience. This VR simulation takes students through the entire interview process, from receiving an interview invitation and getting ready for the interview, to providing well considered answers to questions about the role.

The job interview simulator also gives students a chance to refine their interviewing skills by providing feedback about their performance. The feedback rates the interviewees’ eye contact, speech pace and volume, answer length and quality, punctuality, and choice of attire.

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What students said

“If I went into an interview now I think I would be a bit more confident, because obviously I have had a real interview and the VR [experience] and I’ve had more time to expand on what I want to say and learn on.”Imogen, Year 9 Student

“I do feel more confident in looking for a job. It motivated me to get a part-timer [position] at Priceline Pharmacy just up the road.” Kayla, Year 9 Student

“I think it helped me to communicate with people I’ve never talked to before and know what I’m expecting when talking to complete strangers.” Imogen, Year 9 Student

“I think VR is a very useful tool for schools because it gets you to do things that might be hard to do in real life. I think it is useful if students continue to learn about work using VR – it could really help them in the future.” Brooke, Year 8 Student

Results and Findings

Quantitative results

The surveys showed mixed results in these different areas, with most responses ranging from neutral to positive. The following points have the most noteworthy outcomes:

Confidence levels

57.2% of the surveyed students reported a general or extreme increase in confidence when it comes to understanding skills that employers look for after the XR experience.

28.6% of students also said that it positively affected their confidence when looking for a job and 42.9% reported that the XR experience positively affected their confidence in performing well in a job interview.

Job search knowledge, skills and job readiness

71% of students reported that they feel they have gained new skills or knowledge about job searching through the XR experience.

Expectations and perceptions of the XR experiences

The expectations and perceptions of students when it comes to using XR for career exploration and job interview simulation show some variation, with a slight increase in those finding the XR experience beneficial.

During the pre-XR survey, 28% of students agreed that the XR experience would be beneficial.

In the post-XR survey, 42.85% said that the Career Explorations experience on Work Window was satisfactory and 28.5% found the Job Interview experience was satisfactory.

Overall, 42% of the respondents said that the XR experience was either beneficial or highly beneficial.

Students’ personal career goals and aspirations

While majority of the respondents’ personal career goals and aspirations were not influenced by the XR experiences, 42% reported that the XR experience has had a positive influence.

“It helped me understand how different jobs can help become employed in the future and helped me understand what jobs I can do in the future,” one student said.

Invaluable Experiences for Regional Schools

Simulated experiences like Work Window offer invaluable assistance to regional schools as they address challenges in preparing students for the future workforce.

These challenges often include limited access to resources, career exposure, and opportunities for work experience, particularly in fields predominantly located in metropolitan areas (Chesters & Cuervo, 2022).

Through simulated job shadowing, students are given the opportunity to gain firsthand knowledge in various career fields that they may have not come across otherwise.

“In getting a Lumination Learning Lab, it suits and can suit your specific context. Whether it is a rural school, metropolitan school, or a regional school: a Lab can provide you with what you don’t have already,” says Travis Roach, Teacher and Deputy Principal, Goolwa Secondary.

“It can provide your students with skills and dispositions that are essential as we move into this digital world. So having the Lab provides us, and our young people, with experiences that we didn’t think we would have access to when starting up this school,” he says. 

This supports the idea put forward by the study published by the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership Limited (2023) that mentioned job exploration as one of the viable uses of XR in education.

Discussion

This pilot study serves as an example of how using XR can complement traditional learning methods by providing experiences that are otherwise not available to learners.

The ‘Summer Jobs Studio’ program did not attempt to replace traditional training and learning methods with XR but enrich it. With this in mind, these are the five main aims of this study:

  1. Effectiveness assessment: Evaluate how effectively Work Window can enhance students’ understanding of various career paths and job skills by simulating real-world job experiences and comparing it with traditional methods of career and job readiness training in highschool.
  2. Engagement and interest levels: Measure the level of engagement and interest among students when using Work Window. This includes confidence levels, job search knowledge and skills, expectations and perceptions of the XR experiences, and students’ personal career goals and aspirations.
  3. Skill development: Assess whether an XR app like Work Window aids in the development of relevant job skills such as problem-solving, communication, and technical proficiency.
  4. Feedback collection: Gather feedback from students, teachers, and administrators regarding their experiences with Work Window, including usability, satisfaction, and suggestions for improvement.
  5. User experience evaluation: Assess the overall user experience of Work Window in a Lumination Learning Lab and collect information from students, teachers, and administrators, including ease of use, clarity of instructions, and perceived value of the app in the context of a high school career readiness program.

Limitations and Recommendations

Although this study yields several positive outcomes, it’s crucial to acknowledge its limitations to offer useful recommendations for future research and practical applications.

One limitation is the small sample size of the pilot study group, consisting of only fourteen participants, with just half of them completing the post-XR survey.

This limited sample size makes it challenging to draw broad conclusions from the results and findings. Hence, it’s advisable to conduct further studies with similar demographics to enhance the reliability of the findings.

Another constraint of the study is the absence of a standardised evaluation of the XR experiences’ effectiveness.

Although a custom-designed survey facilitated data collection, teacher feedback from Travis Roach highlighted that some participants found certain survey language challenging to comprehend.

For future studies akin to this, it’s advisable to review existing surveys and make adjustments as needed to cater to students with diverse abilities and literacy levels.

Additionally, exploring the use of appropriate standardised tests can help mitigate personal biases associated with self-reporting.

You can read more about these recommendations in the full version of this pilot study. To read the full study, reach out to us.

Enhancing Student Preparedness for Future Careers

This pilot study illuminates the potential of extended reality (XR) integration in secondary education to enhance students’ preparedness for future career endeavours.

Through the implementation of the ‘Summer Jobs Studio’ program and the utilisation of the Lumination Learning Lab, students engaged in immersive experiences designed to simulate real-world job scenarios.

Initiatives such as the ‘Summer Jobs Studio’ program exemplify innovative approaches to education, leveraging XR technologies to augment and complement traditional learning paradigms.

As XR continues to evolve, its potential to enrich educational experiences and cultivate essential competencies remains promising, paving the way for a future where immersive learning is integral to academic curricula.

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