Landing a job can be difficult. Add to that the challenges that come with maintaining a work-life balance once you do find a job, and it can equal a lot of stress. However, there are resources available that can teach job-seekers the essential skills required for succeeding in the workplace.
One such resource is JobPro: My Life, a game Auberle co-created with local video game company Simcoach Games. Through funding from the BNY Mellon Foundation, Auberle’s Employment Institute had the opportunity to collaborate with Simcoach on the company’s first ever life skills game.
According to Simcoach’s website, approximately 7,000 young people between the ages of 16 and 24 are looking for work in Pittsburgh. Unfortunately, many of them lack both the soft and hard skills required to fill open positions. The goal of JobPro: My Life is to address this issue by teaching users soft skills such as time management, communication, and professionalism.
“My Life targets fundamental skills,” said Eben Myers, Vice President of Design at Simcoach. Myers said young people need to think about things like saving money before they can make effective headway on a career path. “This game helps kids take the first step,” he said. The game is offered through the Simcoach Skill Arcade, a platform designed to inspire and connect youth to relevant career paths through mobile video games, available to employers and job-seekers across the country. Simcoach provides the Arcade as a tool to help connect employers with work-ready job-seekers. On the local level, Eben cites industries such as construction that are in great need of skilled workers to fill apprenticeships.
Auberle is no stranger to the reality of the skills gap and has been working on the front lines creating pipelines to jobs throughout the region. Our Employment Institute helps individuals who face significant barriers to employment by offering nationally recognized certification programs, life skills and work readiness training, education services, and employment exposure. By partnering with over 50 local employers, the Employment Institute connects people to job opportunities they may never have had otherwise.
Eben said working with Auberle was a natural fit for Simcoach. “There was a synergy over workforce development. The work we’re doing, building games around soft skills, jives with Auberle’s mission,” he said, adding that while Simcoach’s recent games focus on workforce development, JobPro: My Life is its first to focus solely on daily life skills.
“We will be using the game as part of the Employment Institute curriculum moving forward,” said Rodney Prystash, Employment Institute Director. Rodney, along with Employment Institute Case Managers Jake Markosky and Tim Kelly, lent their expertise throughout the process.
“They were crucial to the development of the game,” said Eben, emphasizing that their experience and insight helped Simcoach designers focus on specific sets of skills to include in the game.
Auberle youth also played a major role by playtesting two different iterations of the game. The first test was done at the 412 Youth Zone where designers observed a handful of youth playing the game. A few weeks later, youth from the Employment Institute play-tested a more polished version of the game. Observations from that session helped designers apply the finishing touches.
“Having Auberle to work with was really important,” said Eben. “Playtesting is a really important part of the player-centric design process. At the first playtest, we had an incomplete game, but the youth engaged with it. They were really excellent at locking into it and trying to figure it out, being motivated and curious. It gave us a lot of confidence in continuing with that original game concept.”
The partnership between Auberle and Simcoach has proven to be a learning experience for all involved.
Faith Richardson, a youth at the 412 Youth Zone and former Auberle Lawncare team worker, said she appreciated the game’s lessons in time management. “You can see if your time management skills are up to par and try things out before you do them in real life,” she said. By working with Auberle youth and learning about their lives, Simcoach designers were able to see the game from a whole new perspective.
“One of the things that became clear in testing was that Simcoach had focused on the day-to-day mechanics of life, which are important, but the youth that tested reminded us of how important social interaction is to their lives,” Eben said. “The context of their lives revolves around the people in their lives, in both positive and negative ways.”
JobPro: My Life is free and available for download at the app stores and at www.simcoachgames.com.
For more information on the Employment Institute or JobPro: My Life, e-mail Abby Wolensky at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 412-673-5856 ext. 1317.