An Argument for Labor Training in Mixed Realities and Underserved Communities

There is currently an extreme need for tradespeople throughout the country, especially in Georgia’s manufacturing sector. At the same time, the unemployment or underemployment rate in urban areas has skyrocketed to all-time highs for those in poverty. Can solutions to be found using modern training technologies to get people out of poverty and into well-paying blue-collar jobs?


In early 2019 the number of job openings in the US had exceeded the number of workers available to fill those jobs [3]. The traditional view of “where the jobs are” in America has been that of highly skilled, college-educated workers. However, as the baby boomer generation seeks retirement over the past decade, this view has been flipped on its head as the immediate need for a skilled blue-collar workforce has overtaken professional job market deficiencies.


The need for qualified candidates is especially acute in manufacturing, where companies seek local skilled labor.  According to The Manufacturing Institute’s 2018 Skills Gap Report, over the next ten years the manufacturing sector is expected to add 4.6 million new jobs (driven by retirements and growth). The report estimates that 53% or 2.4 million new jobs will remain unfilled due to a shortage in skilled workers [7].

This trend is true in Georgia.  In Georgia’s High Demand Career Initiative (HDCI), companies expressed concern regarding not finding local skilled workers: 


“We’ve been pulling some out of Alabama and Florida, but in Southwest Georgia in particular it’s been very hard to find welders. I think we’ve found two in the Atlanta area, and that’s it as far as Georgia over the past two years.” LMC Manufacturing [8]


“We have an aging workforce…We have a lot of experienced talent but they are getting older and leaving the industry. Our middle-aged mechanics are leaving the industry for less physical work.” -TIMCO Aviation [8]


The Manufacturing Institute’s 2018 Skills Gap Report assumes 58% of open jobs will be due to retirement over the next 10-years.  Today, Georgia has over 10,000 manufacturing facilities with over 360,000 workers [9]. Even assuming zero growth, a 58% retirement rate would mean 208,800 available jobs.  If 53% remain unfilled due to a shortage in skilled workers, that’s approximately 110,000 jobs in Georgia that companies will be trying but unable to fill.   


In 2015, Georgia’s total manufacturing output was $54.8 billion or approximately $15,000 per worker.  A deficit of 110,000 jobs could affect Georgia’s manufacturing output by $150 million.  


A few of the powerhouse companies currently located in Georgia are:




Delta TechOpps





Blue Bird

Kia Motor

Manufacturing Ga



Alcon Labs




Electrical & Appliances

Acuity Brands


Roper Corp.


Fabricated Metal


Pratt & Whitney








Food & Beverage


Fieldale Farms



Machinery/Heavy Equipment



Textron (E-Z-Go)

Yamaha Motor




International Paper



Plastics & Rubber

Decostar Industries

Newell Rubbermaid

Toyo Tire & Rubber





Supply and demand of labor is constantly looking for equilibrium.  This equilibrium has become increasingly unbalanced as companies search for workers with specific skills.  In the 2019 National Federation of Independent Business report, 58% of business owners reported trying to hire candidates.  But 86% of those companies had few or no qualified applicants.  Companies need qualified workers.  Workers, especially those who historically struggle with higher unemployment averages, need well-paying, sustainable jobs.


The unemployment rate in the United States is 3.6%. The lowest since 1969. The tight labor market has pressured companies to find and retain qualified candidates. This is especially true in the Atlanta area with a 2.9% unemployment [6]. As with many statistics in the US economic health report, these numbers can be deceiving when considering individual classes of Americans, especially in poor communities. When we consider that communities of a lower socioeconomic status have unemployment rates as high as 10%, the need for development programs and support of these communities becomes clear.


Local government is tasked with a multitude of missions meant to develop and encourage development of the public good. From economic development, social programs, and real estate re-development, resources are often spread thin throughout the community budget and manpower allocated to elected and appointed officials. Often, job training and workforce development programs are underfunded or poorly administered due to many factors inherent to the bureaucracy and oversight found in local governments across this country [2].  These workforce development programs are often dictated by federal programs that do not match the unique characteristics of available industry and the idiosyncrasies of the local workforce.


The Center for Advancing Opportunity [1] cites the hurdles to potential job seekers: poor health, low pay, the need to care for family, and not being qualified for available jobs. The hardships of vertical mobility are compounded in poor communities due to the struggles of everyday life. As such, the design of social programs to lift those in struggling communities must be created to cater to their specific needs and entities that can provide job opportunities. Many of these workforce development programs offer training opportunities to give low income populations prospects in this high-demand job market. Unfortunately, those in the lower socioeconomic strata are challenged by lack of time due to current employment and transportation [1.2].


If there is such a high demand for a skilled manufacturing workforce in Georgia, why is the unemployment rate so high for those in poverty? What are the current blue-collar workforce development programs (private or public) exist to help those in need? Are these programs considering and attempting to circumvent the hardships plaguing job-seekers in urban areas? And finally, where could new and effective technologies intervene to augment current workforce development programs in the public/private space?



In 1994, Milgram and Kishino codified technologies that digitally manipulate our reality. They proposed that technologies currently being tested and developed be broken down into four categories; real environment (RE), augmented reality (AR), augmented virtuality (AV) and virtual environment (VE) while mixed reality (MR) would be the catch-all for these technologies [1.3]. Today, the common term is XR as the term extended reality (XR) applies to all systems, with the X acting as a stand-in for V (virtual), A (augmented), and any other (new) mixed-use application of applying a mixed reality to its users. Even though being developed for decades, Augmented and Virtual Reality systems are becoming their own as public-facing HMD’s (head-mounted displays), tablets, and immersive display systems are emerging into the public vernacular. As the hardware and software development tools have come down significantly in price, more industries than ever are looking at these technologies as a holy grail for educational development and training. These factors put the technology on the precipice of ubiquity.


Much of the research surrounding the efficacy of XR in education and training is still in its infancy. However, the benefits of using XR in education and training show positive results when used with traditional pedagogical models, especially those outside the classroom. A report from Akçayır et al. [4.1] synthesized that, “AR was found to be a potentially effective tool for elderly people and easy for them to use [3.1] A recent study by Gavish et al. (2015) [3.2], with a participant pool of 40 expert technicians in industrial maintenance and assembly tasks training, revealed that AR training helps technicians to prevent errors by focusing trainees on key points in the task. The researchers suggested that AR platforms should be more widely used to train technicians.” These findings are reported in other studies, specifically in AR technology where AR offers students advantages in many areas of study [4.2] such as discovering and reinforcing authenticity in the subject [4.3]. Additionally, a systematic review in augmented reality trends from Bacca et al. found that, “The main advantages for AR are: learning gains, motivation, interaction and collaboration.” [3.3].


XR technologies as they apply to learning and training, are not a perfect resource, however [4.1].  Students found AR pedagogical techniques complicated with many technical problems [4.3]. The interface of AR, if not appropriately designed, complicates the learning process [3.4]. In the parlance of educational technology, creating proper XR educational and training tools will take additional resources and time to incorporate and augment traditional teaching and learning techniques.




This research seeks to analyze the specific needs of the Atlanta manufacturing industry as it relates to how best to enter the training for manufacturing sphere. Specific research questions include:

  • What are the current blue-collar workforce development programs (private or public) that exist to help those in need?
  • Are these programs considering and attempting to circumvent the current hardships that plague job-seekers in urban areas?
  • Where could new and effective technologies possibly intervene to augment current workforce development programs in the public/private space?


Initial research would only target private manufacturing and public workforce development programs. By better understanding the current training methods employed by the manufacturing segment and what local government is creating in the form of opportunity, we can better determine initial points of intervention for these new (hardware/software) tools. By focusing on initial insertion points for this phase of research, better planning for further study can then be conducted on the actual application of XR tools in the industry at a future date (See attached hypothetical company mission brochure).


Specific Objectives:


  • Identify manufacturing centers that are in the highest need for a skilled workforce. Where do they currently find their labor? Focus on those with ties to Georgia Tech and are accessible to the researchers. For example, the Mind-Sparq at Dover Corporation is a conglomerate of 16 manufacturing companies under one umbrella. They have been amenable to our research in the past and would provide a great resource for questionnaires.


  • An analysis of the current workforce development programs in Atlanta. How are they structured? What type of citizen takes advantage of the opportunities offered? The Russell Center for Innovation and the Atlanta Work Source Program are great places to start. These two centers focus on local (traditional) workforce development and partnerships with industry.




This research project will employ a singular investigation and research strategy on multiple fronts. Quantitative surveys will sample at least fifty respondents for each survey and will consider issues related to each sector (public and private). In this case, “public” will refer to the shareholders in the (Atlanta) public sector that contribute to the design and application of workforce development programs, while “private” will refer to the private manufacturing sector of the greater Atlanta area. Surveys will be conducted face-to-face, via telephone or by computer. These types of surveys are more convenient for the sample subjects, can be generalized beyond the participant group, and are anonymous. However, these types of surveys are costly and the possibility of harboring bias in the target dataset.


Before the surveys are sent out, a pre-survey of the field will be conducted to identify shareholders and where their institutional knowledge can be applied to the denser quantitative survey that will be the basis for this initial research.


Sample pre-survey questions may include:

  1. Name of organization:
  2. What is the main purpose of your role in your organization?
  3. Describe your interaction with potential employees for your organization or placement in the workforce:
  4. Please describe any deficiencies or roadblocks you have found in acquiring and retaining quality employees?
  5. What would you require from a new or potential employee in regards to training and qualifications?


After the pre-survey data is collected, quantitative surveys can now be developed and given to the shareholders in training and HR departments of companies engaged in manufacturing as well as job-placement companies that these manufacturing companies hire. Concurrently, surveys will also be developed for public workforce development shareholders.


Sample survey question for private organizations could include:

  1. Describe the process in which employees are recruited for your organization:
  2. What qualifications or training are preferred for potential employees?
  3. What, if any, training is conducted prior to employment?
  4. Do you work with any governmental agencies to assist with job fulfillment? If so, what agencies provide you with the most value?
  5. How difficult is it to find potential employees?
  6. How much money is spent on job recruitment?
  7. How much money is spent, per employee, on job training in their first year?
  8. How much money is spent on continuing education for your employees?
  9. What type of training is currently deployed for employees? Face to face, hands on, online (videos, multimedia, etc.)?
  10. What is your budget for manufacturing training and safety training?
  11. On average, how long does a newly hired employee take to become a quality skilled worker at your organization? How does your organization define “quality”?


Sample survey question for public organizations could include:

  1. Describe how job-seekers are found and communicated with in your organization?
  2. What are you looking for in a job-seeker?
  3. Do job-seekers come to you with qualifications in the manufacturing sector? If so, describe some of the abilities of the job-seekers in recent memory.
  4. How motivated are job-seekers in your organization?
  5. Does your organization provide job training? If so, how if this performed (Face to face, hands on, online videos, multimedia, etc.)?
  6. Does your organization have programs or partnerships with private manufacturing entities? If so, please describe.
  7. What other programs do you know of that are supported by government that assist job-seekers to find employment?


The outcomes of this research are expected to reveal the strategies that private manufacturing employ to recruit and train potential skilled workers. Additionally, this research should reveal how government workforce programs operate at the placement and training level. The dataset provided by the quantitative analyses proposed in this research will provide an initial roadmap in which technological interventions in public and private programs could occur. There will be opportunities in the current systems of recruitment, placement and training where XR technologies may provide job-seekers with the practical training and skills needed to enter the manufacturing sector. This much-needed training and enabling of job-seekers will help provide blue collar work to a much-needed population seeking a way out of poverty. It is also hoped that these newly eligible workers may provide a skilled workforce pipeline for the manufacturing industries not only in Atlanta, but throughout the country.






[4.1] Akçayır, Murat, and Akçayır, Gökçe. “Advantages and Challenges Associated with Augmented Reality for Education: A Systematic Review of the Literature.” Educational Research Review 20 (2017): 1-11. Web.


[3.3] Bacca, J., Baldiris, S., Fabregat, R., Graf, S., & Kinshuk. (2014). Augmented Reality Trends in Education: A Systematic Review of Research and Applications. Educational Technology & Society, 17 (4), 133–149.


[1] Center for Advancing Opportunity (2019). “The State of Opportunity in America: Understanding Barriers and Identifying Solutions.” Gallup, Inc, 2013. Retrieved online at


[4.2] Cheng, K.-H., & Tsai, C.-C. (2013). Affordances of augmented reality in science learning: Suggestions for future research. Journal of Science Education and

Technology, 22(4), 449e462.


[4.3] Dede, C. (2009). Immersive interfaces for engagement and learning. Science, 323(5910), 66e69.


[3.2] Gavish, N., Guti_errez, T., Webel, S., Rodríguez, J., Peveri, M., Bockholt, U., et al. (2015). Evaluating virtual reality and augmented reality training for industrial

maintenance and assembly tasks. Interactive Learning Environments, 23(6), 778e798.


[2] Giloth, Robert. Workforce Development Politics Civic Capacity and Performance. Philadelphia: Temple UP, 2004. Web.


[4.4] Lin, H.-C. K., Hsieh, M.-C., Wang, C.-H., Sie, Z.-Y., & Chang, S.-H. (2011). Establishment and usability evaluation of an interactive AR learning system on

conservation of fish. The Turkish Online Journal of Educational Technology, 10(4), 181e187.


[1.2] Lipton, Michael. Why Poor People Stay Poor : Urban Bias in World Development (1977). Print.


[1.3] Milgram, P., & Kishino, F. (1994). A taxonomy of mixed reality visual displays. IEICE Transactions on Information and Systems, 77(12), 1321–1329



[7] Pajula, Seema, et al. “2018 Manufacturing Skills Gap Study.” Deloitte United States, Manufacturing Institute, 5 Dec. 2019,


[9] Percy, Susan. “The Future Is Here.” Georgia Trend Magazine, Georgia Trend Daily, 11 Feb. 2019,


[3.1] Saracchini, R., Catalina, C., & Bordoni, L. (2015). A Mobile Augmented Reality Assistive Technology for the Elderly/Tecnología asistencial m_ovil, con realidad

aumentada, para las personas mayores. Comunicar, 23(45), 65e73.


[6] Southeast Information Office, Atlanta, GA, Area Economic Summary, “Atlanta, GA, Area Economic Summary.” U.S. Bureau of Statistics, 6 Nov. 2019,


[3.4] Squire, K. D., & Jan, M. (2007). Mad City Mystery: Developing scientific argumentation skills with a place-based augmented reality game on handheld

computers. Journal of Science Education and Technology, 16(1), 5e29.


[8] State of Georgia. “Governor’s High Demand Career Initiative Report.”, Carl Vinson Institute of Government, Dec. 2014,


[3] United States. Congress. House. Committee on Small Business. Subcommittee on Innovation Workforce Development Author. Mind the ‘skills’ Gap Apprenticeships and Training Programs : Hearing before the Subcommittee on Innovation and Workforce Development of the Committee on Small Business, House of Representatives, One Hundred and Sixteenth Congress, First Session, Hearing Held June 4, 2019. 2019. Web.


[4] Wu, Hsin-Kai, Silvia Wen-Yu Lee, Hsin-Yi Chang, and Jyh-Chong Liang. “Current Status, Opportunities and Challenges of Augmented Reality in Education.” Computers & Education 62.C (2013): 41-49. Web.


Affordable & Connected Training for Underserved Communities. XR Artifact


  • Writing Samples

Can solutions be found using modern training technologies to get people out of poverty and into well-paying blue-collar jobs?