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Virtual reality helps tackle workforce shortage

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TOKYO >> Hotels, convenience stores and other businesses have increasingly turned to virtual reality to help train their staffs amid a growing labor shortage.

VR’s advantage over in-person training is that it allows workers to repeatedly receive realistic training. In fact, VR has become a means to maintaining high-quality customer service.

In March, convenience store chain FamilyMart Co. introduced VR customer- service training. Workers learn to use the register, order products and accept deliveries.

Conventional training requires an instructor to be present, but with VR, workers can learn on their own, and training is available in different languages.

“We hope to improve our customer service, even though we’ve been short-staffed,” said Daisuke Nonaka of FamilyMart’s store operation department.

In January, Kyoto College of Hotel, Tourism and Bridal Management developed a VR-based educational program for hotels and inns that provides changes in scenarios depending on trainee responses, allowing them to handle various situations.

The manufacturing, automobile and railway industries have taken the lead in introducing VR-based training for inspection and repair. It has become an effective tool in getting staff familiar with procedures and allowing them to safely experience inherent dangers of the job.

Amid a serious labor shortage, the food service and lodging industries have increasingly launched VR programs.

“The biggest challenge in the food service industry is cultivating staff,” said Takashi Okuma, a research team leader at the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology. “We hope the new technology will help reduce the burden and improve efficiency in the entire industry.”

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