Virtual reality job training tool lands $35M

hr tech funding news
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NEW YORK — Transfr VR (Transfr), best known for pioneering the use of virtual reality to simulate on-the-job training, today announced $35 million in Series B funding as it expands into regions and industries most heavily impacted by skills gaps and unemployment.

The round was led by Lumos Capital Group, a leading growth equity firm focused on education technology and workforce development. Lumos Capital Group’s co-founder and Managing Partner Victor Hu will join Transfr’s board of directors.

“Employers are looking for undiscovered talent—but high potential workers often are unaware of the on-ramp to in-demand and high-paying careers,” said Bharani Rajakumar, founder and CEO of Transfr. “VR allows us to deliver on-the-job training at a massive scale to meet the economic development needs of states, communities and employers. Together, we are creating pathways from classroom to career that can help workers and learners access new skills—and better jobs.”

Globally, employers across major industries face a critical shortage of skilled talent. In the U.S., a record number of workers (4.3 million) quit their jobs in January 2022 in search of new career opportunities, while the number of unfilled positions is nearing an all-time high. To help address this shortage of skilled talent, a growing number of employers are turning to emerging virtual reality technologies to attract workers as well as to provide hands-on, skills-based training for high-demand jobs.  

Since its inception in 2017, Transfr has pioneered the use of virtual and augmented reality simulations for training in some of the country’s fastest growing jobs and industries—including automotive, aerospace, advanced manufacturing, health care and construction. In five years, the company has grown from serving customers in a single state to working with non-profit, public sector, and enterprise partners in 36 states and the District of Columbia. More than 10,000 incumbent workers, job-seekers, and students have already accessed the company’s virtual reality simulations, which simulate the on-the-job training and experience needed for individuals to prepare for new career opportunities.

“To meet the complex recruiting needs of our region’s employers and grow our economic development base, we needed a way to make hands-on skills training and career search more relevant, accessible, and engaging to workers transitioning to new industries,” said Cody Waits, director of the Office of Skills Development at the Arkansas Department of Commerce. “As a tool for career and technical education, the statewide adoption of virtual reality is helping to break down barriers to career exploration, training, and entry—while helping employers in our state find undiscovered talent.”

Relative to traditional approaches, virtual reality-based training has been demonstrated to increase learning outcomes, speed of learning and overall learner engagement while lowering costs and other learning barriers. In one cohort of military veterans who participated in training through the Manufacturing Institute, 90% of trainees were placed in a job or continued through to continuing education.

Delivered in concert with employers, colleges, and workforce development organizations, Transfr’s simulations enable learners to feel as though they are embedded in the physical environment and experience of an actual worksite. Transfr’s innovative approach enables trainees to perform hands-on training with the assistance of a pre-programmed digital coach, all in a fully immersive, 360-degree environment that is distraction free and completely safe.

Nearly 300 organizations are now using Transfr’s simulations as a platform for skills training and career exploration. Its suite of immersive learning technology and assessment tools is already used by local workforce agencies, schools, colleges, and employers across the country, including community and technical colleges like Wallace State Community College, workforce development agencies like the Arkansas Office of Skills Development, veteran-serving organizations like the National Association of Manufacturers/Manufacturing Institute, and large enterprise employers like Mazda Toyota Manufacturing.

Lumos Capital Group was joined by existing investors Firework Ventures and Album VC and new investor Spring Tide Capital. Transfr’s backers also include veteran education executives such as former CEO of Penn Foster, Stuart Udell; Former CEO of Udemy, Dennis Yang; Degreed founder, David Blake; co-founder of WorkMarket, serial entrepreneur and best-selling author Jeff Wald; and former CEO of Upwork and Elance, Fabio Rosati.

“At a time when the jobs we do and the way we do them are changing dramatically, virtual and augmented reality holds enormous potential as a technology for career exploration, talent development and recruitment,” said Victor Hu, co-founder of Lumos Capital Group. “The Transfr team is creating an entirely new approach to the acquisition of skills that can help workers gain invaluable on-the-job experience—and create pathways to social and economic mobility in underserved communities. This is a unique triple bottom line model that benefits companies and workers—while contributing to the economic well-being of communities—and is perfectly aligned with our mission as an investment firm.”

In January 2020, Transfr was named a “2020 Innovator to Watch” by national education and workforce nonprofit JFF, as part of an analysis of more than 300 companies of all sizes and at all stages selected based on “innovation, the efficacy and cost-efficiency of their offerings, and ability to generate social impact.” This year, the company was recognized by Built in NYC as one of its selective “22 Startups to Watch” list, honoring some of the fastest-growing New York City-based startups poised to make a major impact. 

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