Transfr VR, which produces virtual reality software which simulates on-the-job training, has raised $12 million in a Series A funding round led by Firework Ventures, an emerging venture fund that invests in the “human-centred future of work companies”, founded by venture capital investor Brigette Lau and Ashley Bittner, formerly of Owl Ventures.

Bittner, formerly of Owl Ventures joins the Transfr VR board.

New York City-based Transfr VR stated it will use the funding to scale its training programmes which the company states are designed to boost job opportunities in regions where there are skills gaps as well as unemployment.

Bharanidharan Rajakumar, founder and chief executive of Transfr, said: “By simulating on the-job experience, we’re helping to transform skills training into a more engaging and immersive experience and bridge the gap between work-based learning and classroom instruction. Empowering high-potential workers with access to hands-on, practical training is unlocking better careers and higher wages – regardless of their employment history.”

Through a new state-wide partnership called JumpstartAL, job-seekers across the state can access simulation-based training to prepare for roles in fast-growing industries such as automotive manufacturing, construction and other skilled trades.

For instance, in Alabama, Transfr is partnering with Alabama’s workforce agency AIDT and the Alabama Community College System to use Transfr’s curriculum and virtual reality platform to provide skills training for careers that don’t require a four-year degree.

Ed Castile, deputy secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce and executive director of AIDT, said: “Making skills training more accessible, relevant, and engaging can help to bring technical careers to life and open them up to workers in search of their next step. This work is helping to bridge the gap between unemployed workers and hands-on, technical skills training required in fast-growing fields across our state.”

David Walters, director of special projects and system initiatives at the Alabama Community College System, added: “Community colleges are always on the front lines of trying to connect education and training with the demands of employers at the state and local level. The lifelike simulations we’re employing are helping to equip students to compete and thrive in high-growth industries.”

Ashley Bittner, founding partner of Firework Ventures, said: “The troubling reality is that the current chapter of labour market volatility is perpetuating long-standing wage and skill gaps among women, low-income families, and people of colour. We view immersive learning technology as a powerful tool in building a more equitable and inclusive labour market, while filling gaps for industries and employers that need talent now.”

Firework joins Transfr’s existing investors, which include Album VC, Imagination Capital, professional golfer Greg Norman, education executive Stuart Udell, Tampa Bay Lightning ice hockey team owner Jeff Vinik, and workforce training firm Degreed founder David Blake.

Date published: 20 November 2020

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