Smart talk with SkillSmart
During this past year you’ve seen and heard more from us at SkillSmart, but we’ve yet to introduce ourselves properly. So, in this month’s newsletter we’d like to spend a few minutes sharing a little of the SkillSmart story and team with you.
It’s All About Community
Jason Green and I met when I was running for local elected office and he worked on my campaign while home for the summer from Washington University in St. Louis. We were then, and still are today, both keenly interested in communities and helping bring them together.
During the next decade, I was elected and moved from the biotech sector to the public sector and back to the private sector while Jason went on to law school and into national politics and then the federal government. We stayed in touch looking for the right opportunity to work together to address unmet needs in the community.
Three years ago we were discussing our work and volunteering activities, comparing notes to how often we were both hearing the following from friends and colleagues: their frustrations about finding people with the right skills for jobs; their inability to connect with good job opportunities because they didn’t know what an employer was looking for; their surprise that people coming out of school were unable to move successfully into the workplace.
None of this is new to you, but at the same time it was a topic gaining attention. We found ourselves reading more and more stories about communities with high unemployment while employers in those communities being unable to fill their job openings.
Given our backgrounds we knew how to address this problem for one employer, or one community, but wanted to solve this issue in a greater and more scalable way. In June 2013, after about a year of meetings, research, and conversations, we formed SkillSmart with the mission to empower employers and individuals to maximize their potential through the use of skills.
Once founded, we immediately brought on Kyle Friis who’s been leading our research efforts to understand and define products that respond to the markets and skills requirements of employers. We also brought on another Washington University alum, Bob Sholtes, as our software architect and developer.
We set out to better connect employers, jobseekers, and educators. We developed different product iterations, we ran focus groups, and we combined the feedback into an iterative development process. As we met more people and organizations, we were able to help a client manage two job fairs in two different communities. We helped better connect them to the people in the community and help potential employees better understand the employer’s hiring needs.
As we started to do more client work, John Dillow from Workforce.io joined the team and added to our understanding of workforce needs. We continued to refine the our platform to be more responsive to employer and job seeker needs. We also undertook a contract to analyze and provide recommendations for the workforce development efforts of one of the nation’s largest suburban counties.
In August, we hired our 6th employee, Sofia Castro, who had previously interned for us while she was a student at the Universities at Shady Grove.
In February 2015 we signed our first contract with MGM Resorts International to help build its workforce pipeline and hire employees in National Harbor, MD and Springfield, MA. We worked through the summer with MGM to identify the appropriate skills, and link those skills to educational opportunities at local schools like Prince Georges Community College (PGCC). In August, we went live!
Within six weeks of going live with MGM National Harbor, we have more than 2,000 jobseekers who have built their individual profiles, posted 72 different job categories and their associated skills, and have a number of students enrolled in courses at PGCC.
We have recently entered into a pilot project focused on cybersecurity jobs and skills with employers and education providers in Maryland We’re also working with business, community partners and educators in Springfield, MA.
We know that in order for businesses, jobseekers, and educators to be successful it requires connecting all of the resources in a community to work together seamlessly and transparently. Jason and I knew of the importance of community 13 years ago, and we have found that it is a key building block to growing our economy.
Now you know a little more about the SkillSmart team – we have a great team, goal and mission and we are committed to working with you to make your organization and employees successful.
Talk to you next month!