First Step Trust has worked over many years with the long term unemployed to provide a safe learning space that will enable them to develop confidence and demonstrate skills and competence in a practical workplace environment – motor vehicle and catering being their two main areas.
Many of the workforce members live with issues such as anxiety and poor literacy which disadvantage them in accessing meaningful employment opportunities. Smart Pathways is scoping a 12-module programme, initially in motor vehicle maintenance and collaborating with the Institute of Motor Industry awarding body and Halfords to break down barriers in this employment sector through the prototype of the Virtual Garage. The Discovery Phase confirmed that many of the workforce members had difficulty with understanding written instructions and proving their competence through written tests.
They also lacked significantly in confidence in their learning. The proof of concept that is being developed will incorporate VR (Virtual Reality), video, AI (Artificial Intelligence) and other vocational technologies to develop a training tool that allows users both to learn and to demonstrate success without requiring high levels of literacy. The long-term aim is to enable those furthest from the labour market to show that they have the skills to succeed in stable employment.