LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Goodwill Industries of Kentucky and Accenture partnered to create Project Overcome, a virtual reality experience that helps individuals with criminal backgrounds secure employment.

What You Need To Know

  • Project Overcome is a new VR program inside of Goodwill’s Good Start Reentry Program

  • It uses virtual technology to help people with criminal backgrounds enhance their interview skills

  • A goal of the program is to help those with a criminal history speak comfortably about their incarceration during their job hunt

  • Millions of interview scenarios are possible depending on how users answer questions

“Every year 625,000 get released from penitentiaries and institutions around the United States and all those people need to reenter into society, get a job and join our workforce and be productive,” said Goodwill Industries of Kentucky director or reentry services Dennis Ritchie. 

Project Overcome is an addition to the mock interview sessions in Goodwill’s Good Start Program. 

"What Project Overcome is is a virtual experience for people who are just-involved to go through an interview process, teach them kind of what to say, what not to say and give them the real experience of doing an interview in a virtual setting,” Ritchie said. 

Clients who go through Project Overcome use a virtual reality headset to hear from others who overcame challenges they faced on their job search after incarceration. 

Then they go through a simulated mock interview and speak face-to-face with a hiring manager. 

Jeff Heminokeky, a veteran, is one Goodwill client that went through Project Overcome. 

“My goal is to get employment especially after the past year that we’ve had, and I’m looking forward to being able to try to get that accomplished to further other goals that normal people would like to have like more security in their life,” Heminokeky said. 

Project Overcome was Heminokeky’s first experience with virtual reality. 

"It’s really phenomenal to getting somebody close to experience and expectation they would actually receive from a real interview. I think it’s really a great step toward helping people not to be so anxious and stressful and stumbling when you start thinking about things at one time,” he said. 

With just one headset, a million realistic scenarios are possible depending on how the user answers each interview question. Once the interview is complete, the simulation provides feedback on their responses. 

“It lets you know what areas you might want to be able to sharpen up on, your skills, your answering techniques and, I think it’s very informative,” Heminokeky said. 

Project Overcome has been running for almost a month and 50 clients have used the technology. 

In addition to improving interview skills, the program is also a way to introduce digital skills. 

"It gets individuals used to using technology which is also a benefit because as you know with all of the modern technology can be intimidating sometimes especially for people who are justice involved and who might have been out of society for a while,” says Ritchie.