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The Case for Immersive Tech in Apprenticeship Programs

February 13, 2023

Immersive technologies have already proved to be useful in supplementing classroom education and on-the-job training. Those successes underscore how implementing the technology can bolster the effectiveness of apprenticeship programs in the United States.


Implementing augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR) to supplement instruction in apprenticeship programs could make them more cost-effective, flexible, and safer, while also extending their coverage.
Despite federal, state, and local initiatives to boost apprenticeship options, the United States has historically struggled with lower enrollment rates than other countries.
Despite its numerous benefits, implementing AR/VR technology in apprenticeship programs will face barriers and challenges based on perceptions as well as practical and logistical concerns.
Policymakers should direct state and local level apprenticeship and “back to work” programs to adopt immersive technology.
Additionally, the Labor Department should promote immersive tech-based learning programs during National Apprenticeship Week.

Key Takeaways


Key Takeaways 1

Introduction. 3

The Role of Apprenticeships in Workforce Development in the United States and Abroad. 4

The Value of Apprenticeships to Workers and Employers 4

Apprenticeship Programs in the United States 4

Apprenticeship Programs Outside the United States 6

AR/VR Tech Is Currently Powering “Learning by Doing” Education. 7

The Benefits of Using Immersive Learning Tools 7

On-Demand Access to Training Content and Materials 7

Remote Instruction. 8

Increased Engagement and Knowledge Retention. 8

Safety 9

Cost Efficiency, Scalability, and Replicability 10

Industries Likely to Benefit the Most From Immersive Learning Tools 10

Barriers and Challenges for Further Implementation of AR/VR Training Programs 11

Awareness 12

Multiple Device Management 12

Ergonomics 12

Cost/Value Proposition. 13

Privacy and Security Threats 13

Lack of High-Profile Success Stories 13

Recommendations 14

Adoption of Immersive Tech in Government Apprenticeship Programs 14

Supporting the Promotion of Immersive Tech in NIST Programs 14

Promotion of Immersive Tech-Based Curricula by Federal Agencies 15

Conclusion. 15

Endnotes 16


To build a competitive and vibrant economy, a country must have the ability to educate and develop its workforce. Companies that have more specialized, highly skilled workers are able to add more value to the goods and services they offer, and do so in a more timely and cost-effective manner. The United States must constantly evaluate and update its workforce development strategy in order to remain competitive in the global economy.

Policymakers have recently placed higher emphasis on apprenticeship programs as an appealing alternative to traditional in-the-classroom education. Their on-the-job learning focus has proven effective in developing skills that benefit from repetition and practical experiences, while also easing financial burdens for students.[1] As apprenticeships grow, they should explore using technologies workers will use in the future, such as immersive technologies. AR/VR devices are quickly being implemented in classrooms and businesses to prepare students and prospective workers more effectively, cost-efficiently, and safely.[2]

The promising results of using AR/VR for classroom and on-the-job training indicate that apprenticeship programs could benefit from adopting this technology. This report explores the state of apprenticeship programs in the United States, current uses of AR/VR for on-the-job training and its benefits, and how the technology could be used to improve apprenticeship programs. It also identifies potential barriers to implementation—such as cost, awareness, ergonomics, technology, and scalability—and discusses how stakeholders can tackle these issues.

As most apprenticeship programs are managed or heavily influenced by state and federal governments, policymakers will play a central role in this potential deployment. To facilitate the deployment of immersive technology in apprenticeship programs, policymakers should consider the following:

The Department of Labor (DOL) should update apprenticeship program standards to ensure that AR/VR-based training is recognized as valid practical training for certification purposes.

Policymakers should support National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) programs that encourage the use of AR/VR technology in training and production processes. These programs help companies navigate some of the challenges associated with the implementation of novel technologies.

DOL should promote the use of AR/VR technology in workforce development. Businesses might be hesitant to implement the technology due to its novelty, and an institutional push for the adoption of AR/VR tech could diminish that skepticism. For example, DOL should increase the number of AR/VR-focused events during National Apprenticeship Week.

The Role of Apprenticeships in Workforce Development in the United States and Abroad

The Value of Apprenticeships to Workers and Employers

Apprenticeship programs allow students to mix theoretical classroom learning with practical, on-the-job training while earning a wage in an apprenticeship position. This approach enables students to gain demonstrable experience, building their skill set and resume while easing the financial burden of higher education as they receive compensation from their work. These programs are usually four years in length and tend to be created, sponsored, or supported directly by companies looking to build a direct pipeline into their respective industries for this high-skilled labor.[3] This synergy may explain why, upon graduation, apprentices usually earn higher salaries than do their peers with associate degrees.[4] In comparison with nonparticipants in their same demographic, the average apprentice earned $6,549 more in the six years following enrollment.[5] As the costs of attending college continue to rise—including a 180 percent increase in the last 40 years—apprenticeships have become a potent vehicle for social mobility, particularly among low-income households.[6]

Apprenticeships have also benefited companies hosting these programs, reducing overtime and recruitment costs and increasing revenue and productivity.

These benefits of apprenticeship programs also prove valuable to mid- to late-career professionals who decide to change career paths. The decreased financial burden, the quick experience gain, and the direct connection with their respective industries mitigate most of the risks associated with career changes. Apprenticeships have also benefited companies hosting these programs, reducing overtime and recruitment costs and increasing revenue and productivity.[7] A study conducted in New Hampshire by the Department of Commerce finds that a firm’s investment of $59,700 per-apprentice is offset by a $48,000 per-apprentice reduction in overtime costs and a $7,000 per-apprentice increase in productivity in its first year. The program has an internal return of investment of 40 percent and sees long-term declines in staff burnout and turnover.[8]

Apprenticeship Programs in the United States

In the United States, employers establish most apprenticeship programs—around 80 percent—which state-level authorities oversee.[9] The primary federal regulation for apprenticeships is the National Apprenticeship Act, enacted in 1937, which mainly works as standard-setting legislation aimed at protecting the welfare of apprentices and that establishes advisory councils to study, draft, and approve regulations governing the health, safety, and general safety standards of apprentices.[10] Apprenticeships in the United States have mainly focused on the trades, with relatively low enrollment compared with college enrollment.[11] This almost exclusive focus on the trades, alongside a social stigma that undervalues apprenticeships in comparison with college degrees, has translated into a low enrollment rate among young students.[12] The average apprentice in the United States is generally male and white, has a high school degree, and is between 28 and 30 years old.[13]

Despite these challenges, apprenticeship enrollment has been showing constant growth since 2010, with enrollment among the younger population reaching an all-time high in 2022.[14] According to data from DOL, there were 27,000 active apprenticeship programs training more than 593,000 apprentices in the United States, with nearly 100,000 graduating from such programs in fiscal year 2021.[15]

Figure 1: Active apprentices, new apprentices, and total program completions, FY 2001–2021[16]


In recent years, multiple initiatives have aimed to incentivize the creation of apprenticeship programs and boost enrollment among young students in the United States, both at the federal and state levels.

In 2008, DOL and other stakeholders led an effort toward the first major overhaul of the apprenticeship system. The effort consisted of the adoption of new electronic technologies, updating the welfare standards governing apprenticeship programs, and expanding certification options, among other measures.[17] In 2017, the Trump administration created the Industry-Recognized Apprenticeship Programs (IRAPs) through an executive order. IRAPs are run exclusively by employers and are recognized by third parties, which can be corporations or industry trade associations.[18] In 2021, the American Rescue Plan included $40 billion in funding for workforce training, and the DOL invested $175 million on various apprenticeship grants and programs.[19] The Biden administration also included funding and institutional support for apprenticeships in the recently passed Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and launched the Talent Pipeline Challenge in July 2022 to further strengthen the effort.[20] Additional efforts at the federal level include the proposed National Apprenticeship Act of 2021, which seeks to amend the 1937 National Apprenticeship Act to expand its scope beyond standard setting to include funding for apprenticeship programs alongside other incentives for employers wishing to open a new program.[21]

At the state level, there have been numerous different programs aimed at expanding apprenticeship programs. Some states, such as California, South Dakota, and Iowa, have created programs providing financial assistance to employers setting up apprenticeship programs, either by subsidizing instruction costs or by providing tax credits. Other states, such as Minnesota, have emphasized collaboration with industry stakeholders in the design of government-led apprenticeship programming. Meanwhile, states such as Wisconsin have focused on leveraging existing career and technical schools to support apprenticeship programs.[22]

Apprenticeship Programs Outside the United States

Apprenticeship programs have a proven track record in countries such as Australia, Austria, Denmark, England, Finland, Germany, and Switzerland, among others. The most robust apprenticeship systems are characterized by their early promotion and integration within these countries’ school systems, as students must choose between enrolling in general education programs—aimed at those looking to attend university—and vocational training programs as they enter the final years of their mandatory education. Additionally, programming is usually designed alongside the private sector to make sure apprentices graduate with the skills and training that are currently demanded in their sector.[23]

Apprenticeship programs have a proven track record in countries such as Australia, Austria, Denmark, England, Finland, Germany, and Switzerland, among others.

In Austria, apprenticeship programs are adopted by one third of the student population, in an almost equal split with their other two educational alternatives: traditional college education and vocational education programs. Apprentices in Austria also enjoy a lower unemployment rate—4.5 percent versus the national average of 5.4 percent—and represent 35 percent of the total active workforce.[24] Switzerland’s apprenticeship system has shown similar results. Nearly two-thirds of the students that complete high school opt in to a vocational training program (the majority of these programs being apprenticeships).[25] Participation in an apprenticeship program in Switzerland is associated with a 25 percent increase in salary compared with other postsecondary graduates.[26] Meanwhile, Germany boasts a comparable apprenticeship enrollment rate of 54.5 percent of the total student population. This has translated into a consistently low youth unemployment rate and high manufacturing wages, in comparison with other Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries.[27] In the United Kingdom, it is estimated that between 65 and 85 percent of apprentices are able to find a job after completing their program, and they enjoy a 32 percent average salary increase in comparison with their peers.[28]

By creating a robust apprenticeship system, these countries have been able to boast a low youth unemployment rate and a highly educated workforce at all levels of production.[29] They have also been able to attract a higher number of women into these programs in comparison with the United States. While women compose 13.5 percent of apprentices in the United States, 26.5 percent of Austria’s apprentices are women, while in the United Kingdom, Germany, and Switzerland, women compose 50.8, 35.3, and 44.54 percent of the apprentice population, respectively.[30]

AR/VR Tech Is Currently Powering “Learning by Doing” Education

The adoption of immersive technologies for educational purposes has continuously grown in recent years. A number of universities, including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford University, University of South Carolina, New York University, and the Rochester Institute of Technology, among others, have created AR/VR-powered educational programs.[31] VR tools have proven particularly impactful in medical schools, allowing educators to provide cost-effective, repeatable, standardized training on demand.[32]

Medical schools are similar to most apprenticeship programs in that they usually use a mix of classroom-based lectures and hands-on training to give students the theoretical knowledge they need to diagnose patients and the dexterity to handle their tools accordingly and precisely. Thus, implementing AR/VR tools that have proven successful in health care education will likely have a similar impact on apprenticeship programs.

The Benefits of Using Immersive Learning Tools

There are a number of benefits to using immersive learning tools, including on-demand access to training; remote instruction; increased engagement and knowledge retention; safer training and on-the-job learning; and increased cost efficiency, scalability, and replicability of training programs.

On-Demand Access to Training Content and Materials

One of the primary benefits of immersive learning is users can start training by turning on and using a device instead of waiting for a designated trainer to show up at a specific location at a given time. This feature provides more flexibility for students, which allows them to make better use of their time and maximize the number of training hours.

This flexibility extends beyond training schedules and programming, as students can retake or advance through training modules at their own pace instead of having to follow a structured curriculum that is dependent on the trainer being present. Thus, implementing immersive technologies in apprenticeship programs could allow students to enjoy benefits associated with self-directed learning, such as self-confidence, autonomy, motivation, and lifelong learning skills.[33]

By using AR devices, students can also access manuals, videos, blueprints, images, and other materials on their devices while practicing with objects in real time. As shown in figure 2, this can provide a less mentally taxing learning experience for apprentices, as they can quickly review the instructions for the task at hand at a glance instead of having to memorize the material or stop what they are doing to search for the physical manual.[34]

Figure 2: Use of AR wearables to access assembly instructions in real time[35]

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Remote Instruction

In some cases, access to instruction materials on the job might not be enough, and a student might require the assistance of an expert technician to help them with the task at hand. Thanks to their Internet connectivity, AR wearables would allow experienced technicians to instruct apprentices remotely, increasing both their availability to provide quick assistance and the availability of experts to apprentices. Without the need for physical travel, instructors can make more efficient use of their time and provide their expertise to multiple apprentices in different locations in minutes. Thanks to the wearables’ integrated cameras, instructors get an eye-level perspective of what the students see, helping them understand each student’s perspective.

Remote instruction also opens the possibility for training multiple apprentices at different locations simultaneously. With a feed of multiple cameras, an instructor can supervise the work of various students at the same time and give them real-time feedback as they receive on-site training. The ability to train multiple students at once opens the possibility for small businesses in remote areas to pool resources together to set up an apprenticeship program that they would be unable to set up by themselves due to financial or practical reasons. For example, third-party instructors can allow multiple companies to participate in their training programs in order to fulfill their minimum cohort size requirements, a measure that was especially beneficial for small businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic.[36]

Increased Engagement and Knowledge Retention

Inside the classroom, immersive learning tools allow instructors to pivot from static 2D media to 3D models and digital twins to give students a more hands-on learning experience. The use of 3D media, such as digital twins (i.e., digital replicas of real-world objects and locations), in learning environments has translated into higher student engagement and knowledge retention.[37] Digital twins allow for more significant interaction with the objects at hand. For example, a student can assemble and disassemble a complex piece of machinery at will, allowing them to better understand its composition with visual cues. This type of task is often more difficult to perform on a 2D computer screen because presenting complex, three-dimensional objects on a flat surface does not provide an accurate picture for the student. Educators can also animate these 3D models to represent electricity or fluid flows, cable layouts, force vectors, and other visual cues that illustrate an object’s functionality.[38] AR thus makes students more active participants in the learning process, allowing them to interact with these objects and see how they operate in real time—in comparison with flat, often static images usually present in textbooks or 2D slides.

Figure 3: Interactive 3D model of a physical component[39]

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The use of digital twins can also contribute to making apprenticeship programs safer for participants. With the help of immersive technologies and digital twins, apprentices can safely tinker with the components of complex machinery or practice the logistics of stocking a warehouse without putting their bodies at risk, essentially allowing apprentices to make mistakes and learn from them without risking physical injury. Immersive virtual training can also help trainers assess the effectiveness of their training. For example, with eye-tracking technology, trainers can see whether apprentices are looking in the right direction while receiving instructions, ensuring that they are engaged and attentive to the instructions provided. Tracking attentiveness can also reduce training injuries caused by lack of attention from students during instruction and gives higher assurance to employers that potentially life-saving instructions have been correctly understood.[40]

Cost Efficiency, Scalability, and Replicability

Most of these benefits of immersive-based apprenticeship programs, such as the lower reliance on human trainers, the capacity for remote and multilocation training, and on-demand access, make these programs more cost-effective and easier to scale and replicate. For example, by reducing the number of trips trainers must make to attend these training sessions, programs can cut back on travel costs of accommodation, lodging, transportation, and other expenses. Immersive training also allows training in remote areas that would typically not be feasible due to monetary or practical constraints.

Another major cost-cutting factor is the ability to access content on demand. As content will always be present in a device or in the cloud, starting a new training session is relatively easy, as trainees only need to boot up their devices. Thus, employers would not have to pay for each additional training session. Most of the training costs are fixed and independent of the number of sessions deployed: Employers just pay for each device and any third-party subscription and training packages, if needed. Thus, the more training employers conduct, the lower the cost per training, encouraging employers to conduct more training sessions. On-demand access to training programming also allows apprentices to train in their downtime (e.g., when no customers are present in a store), allowing employers to substitute downtime for training programming, thereby increasing worker productivity and thus future profits.[41]

The use of immersive technology is also linked to higher productivity on the job. In the manufacturing sector, the use of AR/VR tech is linked with increases in overall productivity and operational efficiency by 30 and 40 percent, respectively.[42] Paired with the cost-cutting benefits previously mentioned, immersive technologies offer companies a more cost-efficient way to train their employees and produce goods and services.

Having access to a database of standardized, curated, on-demand virtual training reduces the reliance on the teaching skills of in-person trainers, which translates into a more stable and consistent learning experience.[43] Standardizing training content and practices makes these training programs more scalable and replicable in multiple locations, while providing a consistent baseline to evaluate their effectiveness. It also ensures that training standards are consistent throughout a single company, which could be especially helpful for nationwide companies with markets in different states and regions.

Industries Likely to Benefit the Most From Immersive Learning Tools

Immersive learning tools have been deployed successfully in health care, logistics, finance, emergency response, and manufacturing.[44] But they’re also seeing increased adoption in other sectors such as retail and hospitality.[45] Generally, the industries likely to benefit from adopting immersive technologies in their apprenticeship programs can be divided into three groups.

The first group comprises the industries—such as health care, plumbing, repair shops, and restaurants—that require apprentices to develop physical dexterity in their work by repeating specific tasks, where workers could benefit from the technology’s capacity to provide consistent, stable, and engaging programming. Immersive programming would allow these industries to increase the standardization of their training programs, access to training materials while on the job, remote training opportunities, and additional opportunities for hands-on training using digital twins.

The second industry group comprises industries that would primarily benefit from the safety and cost enhancements provided by AR/VR tech, such as aviation, emergency response, logistics, and manufacturing. These industries would benefit from reducing the risk of physical injury during training, such as with forklift operation, the use of heavy machinery, or learning appropriate lifting techniques. They would also benefit from reducing the costs of simulation training, as digital twins can surpass practical barriers (e.g., recreating a wildfire) or reduce the need to acquire practice prototypes (e.g., acquiring a machine prototype to practice with).

A third group that would benefit from AR/VR-based training comprises companies seeking to develop soft skills for customer-facing roles. Industries such as banking, customer service, hospitality, and retail could benefit from the technology’s immersive nature to develop these soft skills with training that feels organic to the trainee, as the content can be more engaging and convincing than text prompts or 2D video. They can also make training safer and prepare employees for stressful scenarios, such as dealing with an angry and abusive customer or how to handle crowds during Black Friday sales.[46]

The Rise of the Immersive Learning-Based Training Industry

The development of new markets and products is often a positive sign of the evolution and maturing of new technologies. AR/VR-based training has been gaining traction in recent years, as various companies have risen to provide companies and government agencies with resources, platforms, and technical knowledge to develop their training programs. The growth of a vigorous immersive training industry will be a crucial step in adopting immersive tech in the space. Such companies provide scale efficiencies and can remove the burden of planning new training programming with unfamiliar technologies from those wishing to adopt immersive-based learning.

The rise of companies such as Strivr and Transfr—two companies focused on immersive learning programming—is a sign that this is an industry with potential for more development. Both companies have recently partnered with industry members, educational institutions, and government agencies to craft training programs using AR/VR technology.[47] As more companies continue to arise in the space, the availability of immersive-based training should be expected to grow simultaneously. Specialized providers can play a crucial role in adopting immersive learning programs. Their technical knowledge and existing infrastructure can optimize processes while crafting, implementing, and scaling training programs for companies and agencies looking to adopt the technology.

Barriers and Challenges for Further Implementation of AR/VR Training Programs

Despite its numerous potential benefits, implementation of AR/VR technology in apprenticeship programs will face different barriers and challenges. Some of these barriers are based on perception, such as awareness of the technology, concerns over its value proposition, concerns over privacy, and the lack of a high-profile leader providing a successful example of a use case. There are other practical and logistical concerns, such as cybersecurity, difficulties managing and maintaining multiple devices, and ergonomic considerations where there is continuous use.


One of the key barriers for the adoption of immersive tech in apprenticeship programs is the lack of awareness about the existence of the tech or its use in training programs. This is often the case with novel technologies, as in the early years of their development cycle these technologies and their benefits are usually only known by the enthusiasts who have been monitoring their deployment. This is the case with AR/VR technology, as recent polling data from Global Council shows that over 40 percent of the U.S. population “never heard about” or “heard about but doesn’t know anything about” the metaverse.[48]

Nonetheless, it is expected that this barrier will be easily surpassed as the technology grows and the public becomes aware of its benefits and applications. Current market trends seem to indicate that the technology has garnered significant momentum. For example, shipments of VR headsets showed consecutive year-over-year increases of more than 40 percent in the last three years, totaling an estimated 1.8 billion units shipped globally in 2022.[49]

Multiple Device Management

Using any technology at scale necessarily requires a method to monitor, update, and control multiple devices at the same time. That is also the case of immersive technology, which has posed a challenge for businesses, as most existing mobile device management (MDM) software is incompatible with the most popular AR/VR devices.[50] Due to the novelty of the technology, most of the current MDM software is third party and has shown reliability issues for businesses.[51]

As awareness and adoption of AR/VR devices in the enterprise space increases, device manufacturers have started developing first-party solutions that curtail some of these reliability issues. In its 2022 Meta Connect event, Meta announced that it plans to introduce the Quest for Business program in 2023, which would provide a first-party solution for MDM.[52] Lenovo’s ThinkReality products, since their launch, have accompanying first-party MDM software, making it easy for businesses to set up.[53] Microsoft has also provided a first-party solution through its Intune suite, which is compatible with its HoloLens glasses.[54] While first-party software can be a guarantee for compatibility with a certain device, it is often incompatible with competing products, thus limiting the type of devices a business could obtain.

With both first- and third-party offerings in the market, it is reasonable to expect that this issue could be easily overcome in the future as these solution providers continue to compete and iterate to provide multiple solutions for enterprise device management.


If devices are to be used for sustained periods of time, users must be able to wear them comfortably without any major health effects in the long term. It is often the case with new technologies that the ergonomic fit of a device is not clear, which might deter employers from implementing them in their production process. Suppose employees cannot wear a device comfortably for long periods of time, or its use might translate into health adversities in the long term. In such a case, employers are unlikely to adopt the technology.

Replacing existing technology, such as computers, with VR will not be seamless. For example, replacing the mouse and keyboard might curtail some of the health effects usually associated with their prolonged use—such as carpal tunnel syndrome—but also might introduce new challenges due to the increased strain in the arms and hands from the use of motion controllers, hand-tracking, or both.[55] Other ergonomic concerns around AR/VR tech are potential eye strain from use for prolonged periods of time, posture alterations due to device weight, thermals, and skin irritation in areas that make contact with the device.[56]

Cost/Value Proposition

Assessing the value of new technologies is often a difficult process. As businesses are unsure about the tangible applications and benefits of a technology, the return on investment in these new technologies has greater uncertainty, thus potentially deterring businesses from adopting it. When trying to integrate immersive technologies, businesses must purchase a device, acquire licenses for MDM software, and factor in the potential need for servicing for any IT issues. If the devices’ value proposition is not clear for a business outside of a niche task, they might not see the value of incurring expenses for such specialized equipment.[57]

Bigger businesses are usually in a better position to be early adopters, as they have more financial resources and a higher ability to absorb risk than do smaller businesses. Despite potential cost savings, small businesses might be deterred from adopting new technology, as they would rather invest in proven, consolidated technologies that may represent a safer investment.

Privacy and Security Threats

Companies adopting digital technologies such as AR/VR devices usually face a new layer of risk, as they must now set cybersecurity and data protection practices in place. This is not an easy task for businesses, particularly those that wish to implement these technologies on a large scale.[58] Data leaks, security breaches, and cyberattacks can be very costly for businesses, as they can potentially expose trade secrets, compromise control of their devices, and subject them to costly ransoms. High-profile cases of cyberattacks such as the $4.4 million ransomware attack on the Colonial Pipeline breach highlight how costly cyber vulnerabilities can be for companies that have fully digitized their operations.[59]

Establishing appropriate cybersecurity measures presents a financial and practical challenge for businesses, as they will either have to hire in-house talent for continuous monitoring of their operation or pay for third-party services, thus increasing their operational costs. This risk might make businesses second guess adoption of immersive technologies, especially as fewer enterprise-level cybersecurity features and third-party offerings are currently available for AR/VR due to its novelty.

Lack of High-Profile Success Stories

Trendsetters send important signals to market participants. When a company’s success story garners media attention, it often pushes competitors and participants in other markets to adopt what they regard as a successful strategy to stand on top of the competition. So far, immersive technologies have not had a championing industry that emanates confidence from other market participants. This might be a factor that makes companies hesitant to adopt AR/VR in their training and production processes.

The Facebook Company’s rebrand as Meta is a strong signal of an industry push for the adoption of immersive technologies. And while it caused an initial surge in interest in the metaverse and immersive technologies, current news coverage of the company’s commitment to the metaverse tends to be negative.[60] This negative coverage might make businesses hesitant to adopt the technology. As competition in the space ramps up and other developers and devices start entering the market, the technology’s success will likely lead to more positive media coverage that highlights successful businesses that are leveraging AR/VR tech to optimize their production and training processes.


The adoption of immersive technologies in apprenticeship programs will be largely dependent on employers’ willingness to adopt them in their training and production processes. Nonetheless, there are multiple ways policymakers could foster the adoption of these technologies. Some solutions are straightforward and focus on the short term, such as adopting immersive technologies in government apprenticeship and “back to work” programs. Others, such as inclusion of immersive technology in existing NIST programming or the promotion of immersive tech-based learning by federal agencies can boost adoption in the middle to long term.

Adoption of Immersive Tech in Government Apprenticeship Programs

As mentioned in previous sections, most of the standard-setting regulations governing apprenticeship programs are put in place by DOL. The 2008 amendment to existing regulations recognized the use of electronic media as a valid method of instruction. It focuses on the use of electronic media as a tool for “related instruction in subjects related to the occupation,” mainly in the context of classroom training.[61] Immersive learning tools provide the opportunity for students to fulfill practical exercises, which should count as practical experience for certification purposes. To do so, it will be necessary to update this amendment to recognize time spent using AR/VR-powered training as valid training hours.

Additionally, government-run and government-sponsored apprenticeship programs, such as those previously mentioned in Minnesota and Wisconsin, should include immersive technologies. The recently proposed Immersive Technology for the American Workforce Act would take a step in this direction. The bill would introduce a grant program for community colleges and career and education centers to incentivize the use of immersive technology in education and training programs.[62]

Supporting the Promotion of Immersive Tech in NIST Programs

Government agencies, such as NIST, play a key role in fostering new industry practices and the adoption of new technologies. Programs such as NIST’s Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) and Manufacturing USA represent public-private partnerships that connect different manufacturing industry actors to promote technological advancement across a variety of manufacturing sectors, bolster domestic manufacturing productivity, and aid small and medium-sized businesses.

These programs will play a key role in helping businesses understand the benefits of AR/VR technology in the workplace, illustrate how to effectively deploy the tech, and provide them with technical support in the process. The MEP network has included support for the adoption of AR/VR tech as part of its Business Improvement services, while also providing support for other key deployment issues such as cybersecurity practices.[63] Various institutes within the network have adopted immersive technologies, and the network has also hosted seminars and other events covering the adoption of AR/VR for enterprise and training.[64] Expanding support for AR/VR adoption and modernization of the supply chain in these programs could be helpful for businesses that might be hesitant to adopt the technology due to either its novelty or logistical and monetary concerns.

Promotion of Immersive Tech-Based Curricula by Federal Agencies

As previously mentioned, the market has yet to see a high-profile case of success using immersive technology in the production process. Thus, the technology could benefit from institutional support that highlights the benefits of the use of AR/VR in the enterprise. Government agencies such as DOL seem to be in the best position to highlight how AR/VR could be used for workforce development through public events that promote the use of immersive training curricula.

For example, DOL could place higher emphasis on the use of AR/VR in public remarks and events in the midst of the annual National Apprenticeship Week, a weeklong event wherein industry members and education and government leaders promote the value of apprenticeship programs.[65]


Immersive technologies can be especially impactful in training programs that require a mix of theoretical classroom instruction and practical experience, such as apprenticeship programs. Implementing AR/VR-based instruction in apprenticeship programs could make these programs more cost effective, flexible, and safer, while also extending their coverage.

Most of the concerns that make businesses hesitant to adopt the technology relate to AR/VR’s novelty, and it is expected that most will resolve themselves as product developers innovate and the market continues to mature. Policymakers should evaluate leveraging the power of these technologies to optimize government-led apprenticeship programs and continue supporting initiatives that aid small and medium-sized businesses in navigating the hurdles that come with implementing novel digital technologies.


This report was made possible in part by generous support from Meta. ITIF maintains complete editorial independence. All opinions, findings, and recommendations are ITIF’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of its supporters. Any errors or omissions are the author’s alone.

About the Author

Juan Londoño is a policy analyst focusing on augmented and virtual reality at the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation. Prior to joining ITIF, Juan worked as a tech & innovation policy analyst at the American Action Forum, where his research focused on antitrust, content moderation, AR/VR, and the gaming economy. Juan holds an M.A. in Economics from George Mason University and a B.A. in Government & International Relations from the Universidad Externado de Colombia.

About ITIF

The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) is an independent, nonprofit, nonpartisan research and educational institute focusing on the intersection of technological innovation and public policy. Recognized by its peers in the think tank community as the global center of excellence for science and technology policy, ITIF’s mission is to formulate and promote policy solutions that accelerate innovation and boost productivity to spur growth, opportunity, and progress. For more information, visit us at


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[3].     Reed et al., An Effectiveness Assessment and Cost-Benefit Analysis, Mathematica, July 25, 2012

[4].     Preston Cooper, “Apprenticeships Have Risen 64% Since 2010. How Should Policymakers Support Them?” Forbes, accessed 11/07/22,

[5].     Reed et al., An Effectiveness Assessment and Cost-Benefit Analysis.

[6].     Brianna McGurran, “College Tuition Inflation: Compare The Cost Of College Over Time,” Forbes, accessed 11/08/2022,

[7].     Annelies Goger, Chenoah Sinclair, and Aaliyah Dick, “An apprenticeship FAQ: What employers need to know about talent development,” Brookings, March 1, 2021,

[8].     Department of Commerce, The Benefits and Costs of Apprenticeships: A Business Perspective, November 2016,

[9].     John C. Downen, “Data Illustrates the Growing Popularity of Apprenticeships in the US,” Camoin Associates, July 5, 2022,

[10].   Department of Labor, “Apprenticeship Legislation,” Apprenticeship USA, accessed 11/08/2022,

[11].   Annelies Goger and Chenoah Sinclair, “Apprenticeships are an overlooked solution for creating more access to quality jobs,” Brookings, January 27, 2021,

[12].   Ibid.

[13].   Anthony Hennen, “Why Aren’t There More Apprentices in America?” The James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal, January 12, 2018,; Clio Chang, “Apprenticeship Explainer: Why Politicians Are Pitching Them,” The Century Foundation, July 20, 2015,; Jorge Klor de Alva and Mark Schneider, “Apprenticeships and Community Colleges: Do They Have a Future Together?” American Enterprise Institute, May 17, 2018,

[14].   Molly Smith and Nic Querolo, “We’re Hiring, Especially If You’re in High School and Want an Apprenticeship,” Bloomberg, accessed 11/08/2022,

[15].   Downen, “Data Illustrates the Growing Popularity of Apprenticeships in the US.”

[16].   Department of Labor, “FY 2021 Data and Statistics,” Department of Labor, accessed 11/08/2022,

[17].   Department of Labor, “Apprenticeship Legislation,” Apprenticeship USA, accessed 11/08/2022,

[18].   Goger and Sinclair, “Apprenticeships are an overlooked solution for creating more access to quality jobs.”

[19].   Smith and Querolo, “We’re Hiring, Especially If You’re in High School and Want an Apprenticeship.”

[20].   Megan Evans, “The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law: What State Skills Advocates Need to Know to Influence Implementation of Transportation Dollars to meet Community Skills Needs,” National Skills Coalition, June 07, 2022,; The White House, “FACT SHEET: The Biden-Harris Administration Launches the Talent Pipeline Challenge: Supporting Employer Investments in Equitable Workforce Development for Infrastructure Jobs,” The White House, June 17, 2022,

[21].   H.R.447 - National Apprenticeship Act of 2021,

[22].   Angela Hanks and Ethan Gurwitz, “How States Are Expanding Apprenticeship,” Center for American Progress, February 9, 2016,

[23].   Nika Lazaryan, Urvi Neelakantan, and David A. Price, “The Prevalence of Apprenticeships in Germany and the United States,” Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, August 2014,

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[25].   Swiss Federal Department of Economic Affairs, “Vocational and Professional Education and Training in Switzerland Facts and Figures 2022,” 2022,

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[30].   Swiss Federal Department of Economic Affairs, “Vocational and Professional Education and Training in Switzerland Facts and Figures 2022,” 2022,; Austrian Federal Ministry for Digital and Economic Affairs, “Apprenticeship system: Dual Vocational Education and Training in Austria,” July 2021,; Statista, “Number of female apprentices and share compared to all apprentices in Germany from 1993 to 2019,” Statista, accessed 11/10/2022,; Department of Labor, “FY 2021 Data and Statistics,” Department of Labor, accessed 11/08/2022,

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[35].   Ibid.

[36].   Partnership on Inclusive Apprenticeship, “What Apprenti Learned During COVID-19,” accessed 12/02/2022,

[37].   Eric Krokos, Catherine Plaisant, and Amitabh Varshney, “Virtual memory palaces: immersion aids recall,” Virtual Reality 23, 1–15 (2019),

[38].   ZSpace, “Industry Credentials,” accessed 11/18/2022,

[39].   Ibid.

[40].   Strivr, “3 ways VR can improve your warehouse training,” accessed 11/21/2022,

[41].   Nicole Lewis, “Walmart Revolutionizes Its Training with Virtual Reality,” Society for Human Resource Management, accessed 11/22/2022,

[42].   Hiren Kanani, “6 Ways to Increase Productivity in Manufacturing with AR,” Plutomen, accessed 01/25/2023:

[43].   Pamela B. Andreatta et al., “Virtual Reality Triage Training Provides a Viable Solution for Disaster-preparedness,” Academic Emergency Medicine, 17: 870–876, (July 2010),

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[47].   Transfr, “From Skills Mastery to Jobs” accessed 11/22/2022,; Strivr Home page, accessed 11/22/2022,

[48].   Conan D’Arcy and Raphael Malek, “Regulating the Metaverse,” Global Council, November 2022,

[49].   Ibid.

[50].   “Why Device Management Platforms are Key to XR Headset Deployments,” XRToday, accessed 12/09/2022,

[52].   Oculus Blog, “VOLVING THE FUTURE OF WORK AT META CONNECT 2022,” Meta Quest, accessed 12/12/2022,

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[57].   CGS, “Overcoming the Top 3 Challenges of Mixed Reality Adoption,” accessed 12/13/2022,

[58].   Adam Kohnke, “The Risk and Rewards of Enterprise Use of Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality,” ISACA Journal Vol. 1, (2020),


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[62].   Immersive Technology for the American Workforce Act of 2022, H.R.9674, 117th Congress,

[63].   National Institute of Standards and Technology, “Advanced Manufacturing Technology Services/Industry 4.0,” accessed 12/21/2022,; National Institute of Standards and Technology, “Cybersecurity Resources for Manufacturers,” accessed 12/21/2022,

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