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The Challenge

How do you interest high school students in a career in construction in today’s tight labor market? That’s the challenge faced by the International Finishing Trades Institute (iFTI), the training arm of the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades (IUPAT).

The Solution

iFTI turned to the Gronstedt Group to develop a recruitment and training experience in virtual reality. Prospects step into a virtual construction site where they use both hands to practice pouring in water and mixing joint compound for drywall finishing. Grabbing a virtual “tape bazooka,” they fill it with the compound, load it with a tape roll and drag it across a drywall seam to tape it from floor to ceiling. Finally, they fill and run a flat box finisher along the joint. After finishing the drywall, they get ready to paint. Recruits apply masking tape, trim the frames with a paintbrush, then spray paint and back roll. In the glazing modules, they stand on the 25th floor of a skyscraper, guiding a curtain wall into position. This isn't for everyone, but it’s better to discover your fear of heights in a safe VR setting. Others thrive on the thrill of height that might inspire them to a career as glaziers. The simulation engulfs the senses and encourages the brain to suspend disbelief, lending a sense of actually being a drywall finisher on a construction site.

The Holodeck has arrived. 

“We are appealing to a generation of recruits who’ve grown up in 3D virtual environments, this might be new to us, but it’s commonplace for them,” Tom Pfundstein, Ph.D., Director of Curriculum & Instruction


“How many times can you try out a job before you select a profession? Now they can experience exactly what it’s like to have a career in the Finishing Trades,” Simon Hazelwood, Apprenticeship Training Representative, Canadian Region

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