Twelve ventures in the Village Capital: Education US cohort are improving the path from education to employment.

The traditional path from education to employment is broken.

Recent graduates are leaving school with more student debt than ever before, and many are either unemployed or underemployed. On the flip side, millions of jobs are going unfilled because employers claim that they cannot find quality candidates.

Where’s the issue?

One problem is that students aren’t gaining the soft skills needed to transition into the workforce. It is a completely different dynamic than attending school and a number of players are working to address the divide. At the same time, the pipeline of “qualified candidates” has been very narrowly defined and employers are scrambling to widen their lens on hiring. Currently, 30,000 employers find talent from 100 top universities, meaning they miss skilled labor at universities outside their scope, as well as community colleges, vocational programs and those who haven’t completed college but have alternate credentials that qualify them for open positions.

The good news is that entrepreneurs can play a role in filling these gaps. At Village Capital, where we find, train and invest in ventures solving real-world problems, we have worked in collaboration with AT&T to source the best early-stage ventures working to address the issues. Beginning today, our Village Capital: Education US 2016 program will train 12 ventures from around the US that are offering technology-driven solutions to improve student academic performance and position students for success as they enter the workforce.

Each of the founders in our program have experienced the problem they are trying to solve, which offers them a unique perspective to solve it. The cohort overall offers a spectrum of solutions — from strengthening the pipeline of qualified candidates to completely reinventing the process for how individuals are sourced for jobs.

Some of the ventures in our cohort are focused on improving educational opportunities. Centric Learning Systems discovered that students become disengaged as early as middle school where students are lectured at, not taking an active role in the information they are supposed to digest. They offer an online solution called the HERO platform, a project-based learning solution for classroom and remote learning, encouraging self-esteem, independence, and development of 21st century global and career skills.

Meanwhile, Sean and Dan, the founders of cohort member Comprendio, have identified gaps in traditional curriculum design that they noticed as former math teachers in Hawaii. They have developed a platform to combine cognitive mapping, accountability for learner thinking, automated feedback, and unique analytics to accelerate understanding. Education Modified focuses on personalized learning, specifically targeting special needs students. The platform delivers research-based content for teachers to better reach these students and streamline instructional support services.

By 2018, there could be 2.4 million unfilled STEM jobs. The founder of cohort member Nepris, Sabari Raja, understand that one reason students aren’t pursuing these jobs is a lack of exposure. Sabari created a cloud-based social platform that allows teachers to virtually invite industry professionals to speak to their classroom. Meanwhile, Couragion gives students exposure to a wide range of careers early and often via role model videos, games, and quizzes.

College is a mandatory prerequisite for an increasing number of jobs. By 2020, 65% of all jobs in the US will require at least an Associate’s degree or some amount of post-secondary school training or certification. College Easeis making sure that students are connecting with post-secondary admissions as early as ninth grade to connect with their dream schools, know the requirements to get there and begin building meaningful relationships with key decision makers. “We just want to give colleges a broader view of what students are available, and the students a broader view of the limitless possibilities that exist in education,” says CollegeEase Co-Founder Clifton Sparrow.

It’s not only about being connected to higher education institutions — only one in four students are academically prepared for college when they graduate from high school. To prepare students to ace their admissions and scholarship essays, Story2 trains students to write honestly and authentically through storytelling. Once students get to college, Yenko’s financial aid retention software helps schools track at-risk students to improve retention and graduation rates.

A lingering issue that we haven’t fully addressed as a nation is workforce readiness. Employers are dissatisfied with the preparation of recent graduates as they enter the workforce. Educators and recruiters only focus on what they can measure (academics, experience, job-specific skills), not the behavioral attributes (mindset, aptitudes and patterns) that are 80% of the reason someone succeeds or fails in a job. Pairin allows educators and recruiters alike to measure these behavioral attributes to plan for career success. Paragon One helps international students build these essential soft skills and connects them to a network of resources to successfully transition to work in the US.

Yscaira is the youngest of five in an immigrant family. She created LaborX to provide job opportunities to the highly skilled immigrants, veterans and disconnected youth who may not have attended college, but are hardworking and have the specific skills needed to fill the three million jobs currently vacant in this country. Another venture, Skill Scout, allows living wage employers to leverage videos to better position these open opportunities and evaluate candidates beyond paper accomplishments by incorporating hands-on work samples into the hiring process.

These 12 entrepreneurs are solving a myriad of problems all centered around patching the leaky pipeline from education to employment. We are thrilled to support them through our award-winning venture development curriculum, the deep industry expertise of AT&T, and the expert opinion and perspective of investors. At the end of the Village Capital: Education US 2016 program, our affiliated venture capital fund will invest $75,000 in two ventures that have been selected for investment by their peers.

Job needs are changing faster than ever due to the advancements of technology. It is important for education entrepreneurs and experts alike to work together to ensure that the solutions we are designing are inclusive and best prepare the next generation to participate and thrive in our evolving global economy.

Please welcome the full Education US 2016 cohort:

Centric Learning Systems, Rob Fulk — Ann Arbor, MI

College Ease, Demetrius Curry — Columbus, OH

Comprendio, Dan Nash — Honolulu, HI

Couragion, Melissa Risteff — Denver, CO

Education Modified, Melissa Corto — Boston, MA

LaborX, Yscaira Jimemez — Boston, MA

Nepris, Sabari Raja — Plano, TX

Pairin, Michael Simpson — Denver, CO

Paragon One — New York, NY

Skill Scout, Elena Valentine — Chicago, IL

Story2, Carol Barash — New York, NY

Yenko, Margo Wright — Brooklyn, NY