Tooling U-SME Debuts Immersive Virtual Labs at tuX

June 08, 2022
  • Jeannine Kuntz
    By Jeannine Kunz
    Chief Workforce Development Officer
    Tooling U-SME

Today is a big day for Tooling U-SME. It’s the start of our annual tuXperience, held this year in Pittsburgh, co-located with the Smart Manufacturing Experience. For two days, we are gathering with customers from across the country to discuss challenges and solutions around a priority in the manufacturing industry: workforce development.

It takes a community of educators, manufacturers, agencies, and industry partners to close the skills gap. At tuX, we showcase successful solutions and best practices that help fill the worker pipeline, onboard and train new hires, upskill existing staff, and transfer institutional knowledge.

Welcome to Virtual Manufacturing Training

To add to the excitement, we are launching a brand-new product. Continuing our decades-long tradition of harnessing technology to advance manufacturing training, we are launching Virtual Labs.

The new immersive virtual reality training curriculum bridges the gap between learning and doing to enhance productivity, increase safety, lower costs, and engage a younger workforce.

Later this afternoon, tuX attendees will don Meta Quest 2 headsets and tap into applied learning through virtual reality. We can’t wait to hear their feedback.

By providing realistic, immersive experiences for learners to work with simulated equipment, Tooling U-SME Virtual Labs accelerate competency for real world situations.

Just as the manufacturing industry is embracing technology to move better and faster into the future, we can optimize training through leveraging technology.

Our Virtual Labs help manufacturers and educators engage, onboard, upskill learners to build a high-performing advanced manufacturing workforce and, ultimately, strengthen the industry’s competitiveness.

Manufacturing Training History

As Smart Technology continues to exert rapid changes on manufacturing, Tooling U-SME has renewed its commitment to helping the industry adapt by providing state-of-the-art delivery methods and leading-edge content to upskill the workforce.

We were one of the first in the industry to offer online classes in manufacturing. As internet technology advanced, we continued to enrich our content with videos, animations, and interactive quizzes to aid engagement and retention—and kept pace with delivery methods by enabling content on smart phones and tablets.

Now we are taking another step forward with Virtual Labs by providing high-tech, experiential learning to elevate workforce knowledge and capabilities for individuals, manufacturers, educational institutions, and workforce development organizations.

VR Training Curriculum Prepares Organizations for Rapid Transformation

Tooling U-SME’s distinctive three-pronged blended learning approach separates our immersive training from existing options. Virtual Labs are the centerpiece of an Applied Learning Model. We successfully tested and streamlined this approach through an 18-month pilot program with manufacturers of varied sizes.

Based on the concept of Learn-Practice-Perform, the Virtual Labs are an efficient way to safely build knowledge that contributes to confidence and proficiency:

  • Learn new information through standard instruction.
  • Practice skills in a safe, virtual environment.
  • Perform tasks and apply knowledge on the job.

First, learners build on the knowledge acquired in the prerequisite Tooling U-SME online classes covering subjects from Foundational, Machining and Welding to Smart Skills such as Additive, Digital, Cybersecurity, and Robotics and Automation.

Trainees then put this knowledge into practice as they navigate the virtual environment, demonstrating that they can understand and follow instructions, perform tasks in a manufacturing setting, and answer questions.

Finally, through on-the-job training, they perform each task on real equipment.

We see already that the gaming aspect of the VR training technology appeals not just to younger learners—but to older, more seasoned trainees as well. They love the immersive experience. A virtual team leader in a modern facility reinforces the reality of what a job in manufacturing is today—a satisfying career path in a bright, clean facility.

Meta Headsets were selected because they are inexpensive and easy to use, providing a low barrier to entry for any user. As an alternative, computer-based Virtual Labs, available on laptops and desktops, offer a virtual environment that is similar to computer gaming.

Virtual Labs, developed through a Department of Defense workforce and education grant, will cover subjects from Fire Safety to Welding. We expect to offer 24 Virtual Labs by this Fall.

To learn more about how Virtual Labs can help your company accelerate upskilling and engagement, contact Tooling U-SME at 866.706.8665 or visit

We look forward to hearing about your adventures with our new Virtual Labs.

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