Project Overcome looks to help the recently-incarcerated prepare for today’s workforce using VR technology.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, more than 10,000 incarcerated individuals are released from state and federal prison every week. That tallies up to over 650,000 ex-prisoners per year. One of the biggest challenges is transitioning these individuals—some of whom incarcerated for over 10 years—back into a society where they can reenter today’s workforce.
To offer some much-needed assistance in this area, Goodwill has partnered with Accenture to create Project Overcome, an innovative program designed specifically for ex-prisoners that uses VR as a tool to prepare them for the process of searching, applying, interviewing, and hopefully landing a job after prison.
Through VR, individuals in the Project Overcome program experience mock interviews with virtual HR managers. Here they learn how to speak comfortably about their incarceration as well as learn how to operate modern technologies.
Similar to how companies are using VR and AR to help recruit, train, and connect with their employees, Project Overcome is leveraging the immersive capabilites of VR technology to educate users on important life skills that can lead to individual success.
Each VR scenario offers multiple pathways; success or failure depends entirely on the choices made by the user. The ability to fail without real-world consequences lets individuals learn from their mistakes in a stress-free environment.
“Project Overcome helps individuals through a unique experience so they can feel empowered to tell their own narratives about their backgrounds to prospective employers,” said Steven C. Preston, president and CEO of Goodwill Industries International in an official press release. “People impacted by the justice system often experience inequities over the course of their lives coupled with limited work experience and little to no financial resources, stable housing or support systems. This program offers the possibility for the trajectory of their lives to change and allows them to reestablish themselves as contributing members to their communities.”
Not only does Project Overcome give individuals VR scenarios, but it also blends coaching sessions with a career counselor into the program, giving them a more personalized learning platform. Each VR experience is based on authentic real-world scenarios catering specifically to those formerly incarcerated by the justice system.
Dan Guenther, extended reality lead at Accenture, talked about the program, saying, “Project Overcome demonstrates how VR technologies can be applied to practical, real-world challenges, in this case, by simulating the high-stress job interview situation and allowing users to roleplay in a risk-free environment. The instant, interactive feedback provided allows users to refine or rework their approaches, building the muscle memory and confidence required to successfully interview in person and enter the workforce.”
Project Overcome is currently accessible via Oculus Quest 2 VR headsets, although the tool could be refactored for other VR headsets. The developers have also developed a 2D version that can be used on a computer or tablet.
Unfortunately, out of the 650,000 people released into society, almost two-thirds are rearrested. Goodwill and Accenture are looking to reduce that number through Project Overcome.
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Feature Image Credit: Goodwill, Accenture