Interplay Learning — Helping the Skilled Trades Rebuild a Bigger and Better Workforce | by Interplay Learning | May, 2021
By Sam Decker, Board Member, Interplay Learning
Big problems, big solutions
The past 15 months of the COVID-19 pandemic has challenged businesses and organizations like never before.
While some companies have remained fixated and allowed external events to be shaped and defined, others have stepped up to the plate – realizing that big problems require big solutions defined by creativity, resourcefulness and a passionate belief that hardship spawns opportunity.
One such company is an Austin-based start-up Learning interplay, the leading global provider of online and VR training for the essential craftsmen – including training of technicians for HVAC, plumbing, facility maintenance, electricity and solar.
Interplay’s online learning platform, SkillMill ™, has helped hundreds of businesses over the past year and recently earned the company three honorable mentions of Fast Company’s World Changing Ideas Awards be first Command center platform function.
More than 4,000 companies around the world have signed up for the awards, which are designed to honor those who are committed to solving some of the world’s greatest challenges, including health and climate crises, social injustice and economic inequality. Here’s the story of Interplay and the impact it made.
Exposing a fault line
COVID-19, and the new reality of working from home, couldn’t have come at a worse time for the professionals. It exposed a flaw in the cumbersome learning path to the fact that the work was ready – it took between one and six years and required a lot of on-site training. This also came at a time of a growing skills gap with insufficiently skilled subject specialists to meet the enormous demand, despite the high unemployment rates resulting from the pandemic.
The skilled industry had to do two things quickly: dramatically speeding up the time from apprenticeships to being ready for work and increasing the attractiveness of careers of skilled professions. The industry and all its beneficiaries – any home or business with HVAC, plumbing, and electricity needs – depended on these two changes being rapidly implemented, as did the wider economy and job market.
Grow a scalable, highly skilled workforce quickly
Interplay Learning’s technology-based learning innovations, such as 3D simulations, virtual reality (VR) and gamification, have been important change agents for the skilled professions.
At the heart of this technology is Command Center, as recognized by Fast Company – a customizable dashboard that provides an at-a-glance comprehensive overview of HVAC, plumbing or electrical technicians’ skill level, training progress and field readiness, helping businesses to send the right technician to the right job the first time.
Using Interplay’s solutions during the pandemic, workforce development organizations were able to collectively and rapidly grow a highly qualified workforce at scale through an immersive learning experience that was completely remote.
Better careers, better lives
Skilled professionals can fulfill critical, customer-centric roles within months through an engaging and accessible career path – leading to Interplay’s proprietary ethos, “Better Careers, Better Lives”.
Interplay is already having a significant impact on companies and organizations that want to emerge stronger from the pandemic.
Take the local UA 137 union representing workers in HVAC, plumbing and pipe fittings. Training coordinator, Andy Fuchs said: “The first-class instructional design of Interplay’s training has increased engagement and engagement with the training in every learning phase. UA Local 137 is now able to bring many more quality professionals into the industry, greatly enhancing relationships with contractors. “
It’s a similar story at Campus Apartments, one of the largest providers of on and off campus student housing in the US. According to Michael Lewis, Director of Facilities, “COVID took over and changed the way we deploy maintenance training throughout the organization. From regional workforce to HR to technology, our departments all came together to expand the Interplay Learning program across the company. “
Providing training to the underprivileged
Providing training to the right people, and particularly disadvantaged populations, is also an important part of Interplay’s mission. The company regularly partners with nonprofits to provide safe, interactive training to community members who want to start or advance their careers.
Interplay recently partnered with the Goodwill Construction Skills Training Center, an organization that helps people in the community in Charlotte, North Carolina gain access to high-potential, family-supportive, skilled professional careers at no cost.
They also work closely with the Home Builders Institute (HBI) nationwide workforce development program.
Ed Brady, President and CEO of the HBI said: “Our pilot program with Interplay was a huge success. As we progress, we are confident that we will provide our users with the highest quality blended learning solutions, to prepare them for successful new life careers in the skilled professions. “
Throughout history, crises have accelerated trends that are already underway. As the pandemic on countless levels has been incredibly challenging for so many people across the country and worldwide, Interplay Learning is humbled to play a role in meeting the challenges of delivering the job-ready skilled workforce of the future and ensuring that industry and society as a whole is getting bigger and better.