Have Job, Will Enroll

Career College Central summary:

  • A growing number of startups want to play the matchmaker role between community colleges and employers. One of them, WorkAmerica, makes an unusual offer as part of their pitch: students get a legally binding job offer before they enroll at one of the company’s partner colleges.
  • The recently launched company is based here. It remains solidly in startup mode. But WorkAmerica has begun placing students in trucking programs at community colleges. Gutman said more deals are in the works, and that the company plans to branch into other fields with a high churn of workers, such as employers of welders, medical assistants, and IT and HVAC technicians.
  • Another company using a similar approach is Workforce IO. The technology platform tries to hook up employers with trainers — whether community colleges, nonprofit organizations like the United Way, or even individual mentors or bosses.
  • Workforce IO hinges on being able to vouch for the reliability of entry-level job candidates. It does that by having created a “library of skills” in various fields and offering digital badges for those skills, said Elena Valentine, a co-founder of the company. Startups like Workforce IO and WorkAmerica are responding to a real problem, said Mary Alice McCarthy, senior policy analyst for the New America Foundation, who previously worked for both the U.S. Department of Labor and the Education Department.
  • Many companies are having a hard time filling positions, she said, particularly in vocational fields like trucking and welding or at call centers and in other relatively low-skilled roles. And job centers that receive funding under the federal Workforce Investment Act (WIA) apparently have not been able to fully bridge the divide.

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