Walk into one of the training rooms at Jewish Vocational Service of MetroWest (JVS) in East Orange, and at first glance, it looks like a normal classroom: some tables and chairs, a large TV monitor at front of the room, and backpacks and purses scattered about.
But the program participants of the Vocational Rehabilitation Services department at JVS know there is more to this room than meets the eye. In fact, the TV monitor is actually a SmartBoard—a super-sized, interactive computer tablet that enables them to learn how to conduct job searches online in real-time, as well as acts as a high-tech chalkboard, white board, and presentation screen, all-in-one.
Just to the left of the smart board, in a non-descript corner of the room, sits a rather unassuming desktop computer, hooked up to a pair of over-sized “goggles.” Yet, thanks to the technology that powers these two pieces of equipment, the program participants in this class are instantly transported to a business office, supermarket, or retail shop, all of which exist in a world known as “virtual reality.”
JVS vocational rehabilitation services specialist, Vicki Krug, explains: “At JVS, we first try to prepare our program participants for employment by helping them build job-related skills within the security of our classroom environment. When participants put on the virtual reality headset, they can practice performing office skills like filing, photocopying, even making a cup of coffee.”
“They can restock grocery items on supermarket store shelves—or hang clothing on a display rack,” Krug continues. “Once they become more adept and comfortable at performing these tasks in the classroom, their transition to a real-life work environment is much easier and, hopefully, more successful,” she adds.
Mort Bunis, past president of the JVS board of trustees and a benefactor of the virtual reality training, recently had the opportunity to “test drive” the technology. “It’s absolutely fascinating how JVS program participants benefit from this equipment. The difference it is making in their lives is remarkable. Thanks to JVS and this technology, we’re not only helping find people work, we’re helping people find work who thought there would never be an opportunity for them to even have a job,” he stated.
“The ability to put people to work—to help people help themselves—is a special treat for any donor because you can see the results of what your contribution has achieved.”