The US Bureau of Labor reports that only 17% of transition-age youth with disabilities are employed. According to the U.S. Department of Education, Job interview skills are a critical component of job readiness training for transition-age youth. For these people, the interview skills present a barrier to employment. Practice with virtual role-players helps to overcome this barrier. To make this possible SIMmersion built two virtual role-players with help from NIMH, the Kessler Foundation, and Matthew J. Smith, PhD, Professor of Social Work at the University of Michigan.
During development, the team partnered directly with youth with autism spectrum disorders, their parents, teachers, community employers, and employed adults with autism spectrum disorders to ensure the program reflected the needs of the target population. Another goal was to ensure the program reflected the needs of transition-age youth with other disabilities or involved in juvenile justice.
The training system features virtual role-play interviewers, Rita Muniz and Travis Bishop. No two interviews are alike, so students get a new and unique experience with each practice interview. The training also features a real-time coach who provides on-going feedback, so students learn as they practice. The practice and feedback prepare students for competitive job interviews. Students reported that the program was enjoyable, easy-to-use, and reduced anxiety during real interviews.
In comparison with the expected 17% employment, a research study with 332 students showed much better results for students with various disabilities after a short 6-month period as shown in the figure below.
The study also found that the employment rate depended on the number of times the students practiced with the virtual role-players. For all categories, students who practiced 15 or more interviews gained employment 71% of the time within 6 months.
The research shows that the comprehensive training with virtual role-players will help fill a critical training gap for transition-age youth. For free educational content and to sample role-play interviews click here.