By Marquita Gooch-Voyd, assistant director at Clayton County Library System and 2020 Georgia Public Librarian of the Year.
The Clayton County Library System offers patrons free access to trades skills trainings via Interplay Learning, the first online, on-demand skilled trades training catalog featuring virtual reality (VR) and 3D simulations.
Interplay offers courses to learn how to be an electrician, plumber, repair commercial and residential HVAC, conduct facilities maintenance, and many other disciplines. Courses are available in English and Spanish.
“Interplay Learning is a great fit for our community,” said Marquita Gooch-Voyd, assistant library director with Clayton County Library System. “There are a number of vacant trades positions within our county offices, and this program introduces rising high-school seniors to an alternative path of education if they don’t want to pursue or cannot afford a four-year college degree. Our next goal is to help our county’s building and maintenance department find apprentices through our program, as many of their staff are headed for retirement.”
Clayton County was the first library system in the country to offer access to Interplay Learning’s robust platform of two-dimensional, three-dimensional and virtual reality educational models.
Because the library’s Interplay licenses have continuing education credits, program participants can submit the credits to a trades school and shorten the time required to complete a trades program. These courses are also applicable for already certified trades people to receive recertification.
The simulations replicate real-world facility, HVAC, and electrical issues commonly encountered by trades workers. The modules are realistic and walk users step by step through assessing the problem, identifying tools needed, and finally, presenting the workflow for fixing the issue. These courses meet training needs for an industry where real-world equipment and hands-on training is preferred.
So far, the program has had over 50 participants since November. The waitlist for round two access was filled within 48 hours of the program launch. Patrons can soon make appointments to complete the next round of virtual reality simulations found within Interplay.
The library has had great interest from community partners, such as Barracuda, a small business located in Morrow, GA, that is in need of workers with little to no trade skills experience.
Feedback from the program has been overwhelmingly positive. Gina Zuniga, a second-round participant, stated that she signed up for the program to learn a trade and looks forward to participating again.
“The Clayton County Library System’s goal is to contribute to the success of our residents by offering opportunities to enhance their workforce development skills, in addition to offering a full range of library services that meet their informational, educational, and leisure interests,” said Gooch-Voyd. “We strive to build a stronger connection with our community, to create spaces that appeal to our patrons, and to provide no or low cost resources that improve the quality of life in Clayton County.”