Food In Canada

Using virtual reality to train the workforce

Gamification and immersive experiences ease the learning curve for individuals

November 12, 2021   by Jennifer Griffith

Photo © Tierney / Adobe Stock

Virtual reality training is effective in the workplace, and offers exciting opportunities for the Canadian food and beverage manufacturing industry. Even if you haven’t tried virtual training, you intuitively understand it is a safe and engaging way for people to learn. With a virtual reality headset, an individual can safely step into a 3D-panoramic learning scenario. We also know from research that people learn faster when they are actively participating in the learning process. Gamification is made easy in a virtual reality setting and is much more engaging than simply reading text or watching a video. Given the highly visual aspect of virtual reality, it is a smart tool when language barriers are a factor.

Some of the industry’s large companies have already incorporated virtual immersive learning into their training strategies, but technology integration has been a barrier for many small to medium-sized businesses. To support these employers, which make up over 90 per cent of the 7,600 businesses across the country, Food Processing Skills Canada (FPSC) recently launched iFood360°. This initiative has kick-started with research into scale-up options for entry-level virtual technology that will work well with small to medium-sized businesses.

Immersive experiences

We are also developing virtual immersive learning experiences in food safety, sanitation, worker health and safety and emotional intelligence for employers to train new hires and upskill employees. To expedite delivery of this training, we will be creating new courses and adapting existing FPSC’s courses such as Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs) with virtual reality experiences. In the Fall, we will be inviting more than 20 food and beverage processing businesses across Canada to work with us in delivering these virtual immersive learning experiences to over 400 employees.

In response to a key recommendation in our latest report, At the Crossroad to Greatness —Key Insights & Labour Market Research About Canada’s Food and Beverage Processing Industry, that the industry must attract new talent, we will be partnering with post-secondary institutions and community organizations to provide virtual career exploration for students and job seekers. For individuals who have been displaced from a job due to COVID-19 or have had limited exposure to the variety of jobs in the food and beverage manufacturing industry, the career labs will offer a great way to jump into specific industry jobs for at least a day. We will be working with industry and education experts on identifying the jobs that should be highlighted. It would make sense for us to target areas where there are measurable and significant skills gaps, such as industrial meat cutters.

Evolving strategy

At FPSC, we have learned there is not one perfect fit when it comes to training. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, we successfully worked with employers on in-house training based on the Canadian Food Processors Institute’s e-courses. The combination of one-to-one coaching with self-paced, asynchronous learning that didn’t impact production time, was beneficial for businesses. Today, we are in a different environment. There are new occupational health and safety requirements and unique workplace demands that are placed on employees can benefit from emotional intelligence training. Therefore, our industry training strategy is also evolving.

We continue to support Canadian businesses with national occupational standards, certifications and an accreditation strategy based on the industry’s Learning and Recognition Framework, but we are also incorporating tools such as gamification and virtual reality to ease the learning curve for individuals.

Jennefer Griffith is an executive director at Food Processing Skills Canada.

This article was originally published in the September 2021 issue of Food in Canada.


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