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Odyssée students granted a unique look at the trades

Virtual reality and heavy equipment simulators give youth a taste of career options

Students at École secondaire publique  Odyssée at 480 Norman Avenue in North Bay had the chance today to experience a glimpse of a career in trades. They did so through virtual reality and training simulators of a backhoe, front end loader, and rock truck.

Sylvie Vannier is a co-op teacher at the school who works closely with the school board’s co-op co-ordinator, Paul Seguin. “We’re really focusing on giving the kids learning though experience,” she said, “and there’s a big focus on getting kids interested in careers in trades.”

See: Students can now enter the skilled trades faster

Through virtual reality headsets, students could watch short videos – about five minutes on average – discussing 48 different careers in the trades. The videos were shot using 360-degree cameras, so once one puts on the headset, you are immersed in the world of the trade described.

For instance, the boilermaker video puts you on the floor of Stelco, a steel company in Hamilton, and you get to see what an average day is like for one of the boilermakers at work.

As for the simulators, there were three of those housed within a trailer, which makes its way to various schools and companies for heavy equipment training. Sit in one of the chairs, and you can take control of the machine. All controls are at your hands and the screen before you lets you see what’s happening in real time.

The entire chair shakes when you hit a rough patch or are trying to move some earth.

The company behind this is Origin, and the service is called immersiveLink. Based in Thunder Bay, the company is Indigenous owned and besides offering training and education in the trades, it also offers workshops and training regarding traditional knowledge and Indigenous world views. However, the trades were on today's agenda.

Randy Moore, the Director of Partnerships with Origin, was on hand today to orient the students with the virtual reality sessions. He noted that all of the videos used to create the immersive worlds of trades are produced in house.

Trades are in demand, Vannier emphasized, and the Ontario government is encouraging more students to take up trades, particularly through Skills Ontario. Moreso, the school offers many opportunities for students to find apprenticeships and co-op placements to help kickstart their careers.

See: Parry Sound students’ trade skills earn them tickets to Toronto

The simulators and virtual videos “give students a taste of the trades,” and after spending some time on the virtual backhoe, “I’ve already had a couple of them tell me that’s what they want to do after high school,” Vannier said.

“This gives them an idea of what their jobs could be like if they decided to choose it for a career.”

Having Origin visit today was a hit with students, Vannier said, and many who had not signed up for a session decided to add their names to the list after hearing their peers rave about the experiences.

Grades 7 to 12 participated, and around noon a bus full of students from Sturgeon Falls also came by to experience the virtual trades.

“We have students who are wanting to stay after classes today so they can take part,” Vannier said.

David Briggs is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of BayToday, a publication of Village Media. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.

David Briggs, Local Journalism Initiative reporter

About the Author: David Briggs, Local Journalism Initiative reporter

David Briggs is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter covering civic and diversity issues for BayToday. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada
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