Friday, October 10, 2008

FAA uses games to hire and train

Turns out all I have to do is post about how we should be using video games for recruitment and assessment, and an example appears!

In this recent article in the New York Times (should be first link), the author describes how the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is using a sophisticated simulator to train air traffic controllers.

Motivated primarily by the impending retirement wave and massive need for new controllers (1,700 a year for the next 10 years) , the FAA has developed a multi-screen simulator that allows trainees to hone their skills in a safe but semi-realistic environment. From the article:

"The tower simulation is realistic. Aircraft first appear as tiny dots against blue sky, clouds or stars. On the ground, drivers of maintenance trucks ask permission to cross a runway so they can fix a lighted sign. A click of the instructor’s mouse can shift the time of day, and change the weather — from rain to hail or cloudy to clear. To make the simulations as unpredictable as in the real world, some pilots ignore instructions."

But it's not only the training that's innovative. The FAA's screening process puts most of ours to shame. Specifically, the candidates complete a six hour (which might be overkill) computerized aptitude test that measures geometry and math ability.

This is followed by "game-like tests" designed to measure things like ability to work under pressure, maintain "situational awareness", short- and long-term memory, multitasking, and flexibility. The tests vary from air traffic simulations to ones that look like Frogger or Tetris.

So someone out there gets it! The system is even decribed as "a big Xbox."

But they could do even better. Here are some ideas how:

1. Use the multi-screen simulator for recruitment and selection, not just training. I really hope they show the system off during recruitment open houses--I know I would. And if it isn't cost prohibitive, and makes sense given entry level requirements, why not use the simulator as part of the screening process?

2. They've got a pretty good recruitment site and make good use of video. Why not add a java-powered mini-game that simulates the job? Maybe have a leader board and allow people to put in their e-mail and opt-in to getting more information about becoming an air traffic controller?

3. On a related note, why not go the route of America's Army and mix in a little SimCity and Flight Simulator and produce a more full-featured game that simulates the job? Again, players could have the option of uploading their scores to a public website, and allow them to enter their email (securely) to get more info?

Not all of our jobs lends themselves so well to simulations and video (I'm not sure SimHRManager would be very popular). But whenever possible, let's take advantage of the technology around us!

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