Vehicles for Change and HTX are discussing adding additional lessons, including steering and suspension repairs, Schneider said.
“We will work with VFC to continue to add lessons to build out a full one-year curriculum,” he said. “This is not a replacement [for physically doing hands-on repairs], but it is a better way to get prepared and proficient.”
A grant from the State of Maryland funded the development of the VR training platform. Vehicles for Change owns the program, and Schwartz figures it can be a revenue generator, with all profits used to expand the nonprofit’s mission.
“I can put a training program in any high school in the country for $50,000 using virtual reality,” he said.
But helping prisoners is the main focus. Vehicles for Change is working with the Maryland Department of Juvenile Services and has a sale pending to the Federal Bureau of Prisons.
“There is an awful problem in this country with people getting out of prison without any skills and no way to get a job,” Schwartz said. “We can at least give them a fighting chance.”
The Vehicles for Change program has helped David Hall dream big. Hall, 52, went through the training program after being released from prison last year. He had no previous experience working on cars. Now, he works as a service technician at Pohanka of Salisbury in Maryland, part of Pohanka Automotive Group.
The VR training wasn’t available when he was in the program, but he has used it.
“It was like watching a movie in 3D. You are in the movie and star in it,” Hall said.
He loves working as a service technician but has bigger plans.
“My goal is owning my own shop in the next 10 years or sooner,” Hall said.