House of Hope takes job training into the virtual world with VR headset grant

House of Hope Peoria
House of Hope Peoria(WEEK)
Published: Nov. 18, 2022 at 5:02 PM CST
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PEORIA (25 News Now) - House of Hope is moving its workforce re-entry programs into the virtual space using a $25,000 grant from the charity arm of Illinois American Water.

The grant will purchase five virtual reality headsets containing training for over 200 different kinds of skilled trades. House of Hope said it gives those in the program a chance to try out different types of work without having to travel, saving time.

Chief Program Office Corine Barnes said many in their programs have social anxiety surrounding taking on a new trade and entering the workforce. Training them virtually in the House of Hope can give them a space to learn new skills without getting nervous.

“This gives them a safe space not only to deal with social anxiety and but also... a fun way of learning,” Barnes said. “I wish I had it when I was getting my master’s. It’s something different that we feel is going to be extremely impactful.”

The grant is one of three given out by the Illinois American Water Charitable Foundation. It’s the second grant received by House of Hope from a utility, they also received an energy-efficient upgrade from Ameren over the summer.

“To be able to make a spark in someone that they might be able to explore a skilled trade or get into an occupation and get that jump start in their career it’s really important to the future of the communities we serve,” Spokesperson for Illinois American Water Karen Cotton said.

The group plans a soft launch for the program in December, before starting in full force next year. They’re focusing the training solely on adults. They’re not trying to exclude youth, Barnes said, but rather filling a need for adult job training in the community.