A work and pensions minister who used to be the MP for Eastleigh returned to Southampton today to see how AI and virtual reality (VR) are helping young people into work.

Mims Davies visited the city’s Young Adults Employment Hub at the central library to meet the team helping 18 to 24 year olds find jobs and try the new VR headsets which candidates use to practise job interviews.

The "innovative" scheme involves simulated scenarios allowing jobseekers to consider how they would answer in a real interview situation while AI measures rates of speech, body movement and eye contact.

The scenarios are then viewed back with coaches who offer feedback.

Run by the Jobcentre Plus, Southampton City Council and soft skills training platform Bodyswaps, the scheme was introduced last year for a six-month trial.

Thanks to its success, it's now been extended for another year. 

Daily Echo: Work and Pensions Minister Mims Davies visiting Southampton


Ms Davies, minister for Social Mobility, Youth and Progression, spoke to those taking part in the scheme and had a go at the VR herself.

She said: "It’s very inspiring. The sun is shining in Southampton, the partnership between the council, DWP and what we’ve seen with Bodyswamps is really making a difference, and that is what it’s all about."

She added: "You don’t know what you don’t know, so the virtual reality experience of taking you through calmly helps those young people to know what to expect."

She added that this will help those who may face barriers such as learning difficulties to get the support they need "to shine" during their job interviews.

Cllr Darren Paffey, the former cabinet member for children and learning, said 289 residents have engaged with the hub since December last year, which has resulted in 107 people getting jobs.

He said: "We’re absolutely delighted that the minister is coming to see the work that is in partnership with the DWP. It’s fantastic to be able to show the real impact of their investment and our work and our focus accomplished.

"The key thing of what we wanted to show today is how something focused on employment actually has the most effect because it ties with other support services.

"So for those coming with mental health issues or with criminal convictions, there are all kinds of barriers for which this work is showing actually we can overcome those barriers and support people back into work."