Village Capital’s next education technology cohort is helping set Americans up for career success

My high school motto is Finis Origine Pendet or “the end depends upon the beginning.” The motto has stuck with me, and it seems especially pertinent as I think about the state of the workforce today.

The whole concept of a job is in flux right now. This shakeup is exciting: the nine to five office job has been upended by the gig economy, the surge of remote workers, and a growing demand for more flexible work hours.

Still, the side hustle economy obscures an underlying problem: people need a second job, or rely on gig work as a first job, because they’re not being supported by a single paycheck. As my colleague Ebony Pope wrote a few months ago, there are currently six million unfilled jobs in the United States, yet half of Americans consider themselves underemployed. There’s a deep mismatch between jobs that are available and the skills that are being taught in school.

If the end result for the American worker is a job that pays well and has room for growth, then we’re going to need to make some significant improvements to how we set people up for success.

Education technology will play a role here. We’ll need systemic change from schools and universities, but also from employers. Eight out of ten HR managers say their system for recruiting and training is in need of an overhaul. Thanks to a crop of new edtech startups, that shift is now possible.

Village Capital’s newest education technology program, Education: US 2017, is tackling the job/skills mismatch head on. We believe that entrepreneurs are best positioned to solve this mismatch in the marketplace, and we also believe that startups solving these problems make good investments. So we sought out US-based startups focused on building skills to help people get hired; validating these skills among employers; or helping current employees get the training they need to reach the next step in their careers.

We narrowed down a diverse applicant pool to 12 startups that will go through our unique diligence process, an investment readiness program supported by AT&T and Lumina Foundation, among others.

These companies represent the diversity of the American workforce: half are led by women, 33% by minority entrepreneurs, and 75% are from outside Boston, New York, and San Francisco.

Over the course of four months, these startups will engage with strategic partners and investors as well as collaborate deeply with each other. At the end of the program, the entrepreneurs will assess each other on several criteria in a transparent process we call peer-selected investment, and, as a group, choose two companies in the program to receive an offer for $75,000 investment in pre-committed capital from VilCap Investments.

Anne Wintroub, director of social innovation at AT&T, said that “these ventures bring diverse and innovative ideas to education and the workplace. Together with Village Capital, they are key to our efforts to ensure everyone has the skills needed to succeed.”

Here is the cohort for Village Capital Education: US 2017:

  • Better Weekdays: matches college students with personalized career pathways and significantly reduces corporate recruiting costs
  • Caseworx: an interactive video, case-based story training platform for corporate and higher education
  • Cell-Ed: brings essential skills (literacy, language, and job skills) to any adult with a mobile phone
  • Ed Leadership SIMS: provides computer-based simulations as experiential, scalable professional development for K-12 administrators to build resilience, judgement, and decision-making skills
  • Landit: enables companies to more successfully invest in and create a compelling women’s experience to attract, develop, and retain high-potential diverse talent
  • Qualified: the most effective platform for assessing engineers
  • Sales2Job Academy: a training, certification, and placement program that prepares motivated students from underserved populations for sales jobs with high earning potential
  • SkillSmart: skills-based platform that improves hiring outcomes by 2x while reducing turnover by over 20%
  • t3 Interactive: trains people to be better speakers by providing automated, real-time feedback on communication skills, helping them achieve professional, personal and academic success
  • Unleesh: a mobile-first skill-building platform designed to solve the global skills gap through continuous workforce development, content services and data-driven insights
  • Upswing International: improves college graduation rates using software that better connects online students to on-campus support
  • WorkAmerica: the employment marketplace for community and technical colleges

These startups are providing a pathway to a solid education for everyone, regardless of parental income or background, and the tools to transfer what is learned during school into a meaningful career.

Marissa Lowman (@marissalowman) is head of Village Capital’s education practice. She previously worked at Learn Capital and co-founded LearnLaunch, an edtech community, accelerator, and co-working space in Boston. Learn more about Village Capital’s upcoming Education: US 2017 Program with AT&T and read more articles on the Village Capital Medium page.