The JobScout Story
You often hear every startup should have a good story. We believe our good story feeds right into the big problem we are trying to tackle: the fact that over 60 million Americans do not know how to meaningful use the Internet.
Aside from this startling figure about the state of digital literacy in America, it is simply difficult, and, at times, an overwhelming task to find a job today.
JobScout is a web and mobile application designed to get users back to work by providing essential jobseeking tools. Pairing gamified lesson content with streamlined job search management tools, JobScout aims to be a “one-stop” resource for jobseekers of all shapes and sizes.
It may be hard to imagine, in the wake of the IPOs of social networking companies and the advances in devices like the iPhone 5 that allow people to connect to the Internet, that there are people in 2013 in the United States who still do not use the Internet. One in five Americans fall into this category, according to Pew Research Center.
This is not just grandparents or "old people" as is often the stereotype advanced of the non-Internet user: they are Millennials, veterans, single parents and hard workers trying to the re-enter the job market after a former career where Internet use may not have been required. Millennials alone face a 25% unemployment rate.
These are the users of platforms like JobScout, seeking to arm the unemployed with the Internet skills necessary to find employment and succeed in our economy.
Our origins are non-traditional. JobScout is a startup that was never meant to be a startup. The platform arose from a partnership of the California State Library and the LINK AMERICAS Foundation, the foundation responsible for shepherding the nation's first statewide effort to tackle digital literacy through California. The call to action was to create “something” to aid the millions of Californians who rely on the libraries and community organizations for their Internet access and source of employment information.
JobScout's formula is simple: users take lessons, earn badges for completing those lessons and apply those lessons to find work.
JobScout's mission is challenging: the platform's goal is to teach people how to use the Internet by using the Internet.
JobScout's founding team, Christina Gagnier, Carter Fort and Stephanie Margossian often comment that using an online platform to teach offline learners was either the "best or worst idea we have ever had." Yet, the platform uses another non-traditional approach: it works through local entities, such as libraries and workforce development organizations, training staff to be the offline entry point and support network for new Internet users.
JobScout teaches the essential Internet skills needed to find a job in today's online marketplace. At first glance, this may seem elementary. There is a focus in the online education space on continuing education and opening up the university, giving users access to college courses or advanced computer skills, like coding. As JobScout CEO Christina Gagnier puts it, "Our users need to master what a URL is before they can even think about the possibility of coding in HTML."
Like other online learning platforms, JobScout uses gamification of its educational materials to engage users in a fully guided process of learning everything about navigating the Internet. The platform provides 39 lessons to users, ranging from "Introduction to Internet Browsing" to "Using the Internet to Prepare for an Interview." For each lesson a user completes, they earn a badge. The platform provides a ResumeBuilder allowing users to create fill-in-the-blank resumes, a job search function and the ability to apply to jobs and manage job applications directly from the site.
The platform is available nationwide, with over 1,000 organizations using JobScout. Every library in California has support for the platform, and K-12 education institutions have begun to subscribe to JobScout to use the tools in their workforce and adult education programs.
JobScout is free for users and available online. Our iOS application launched in January 2013, and our Android application will be available in May 2013.
The platform will also launch a version in Spanish in September 2013, addressing the growing employment and education needs of the Spanish speaking population in the United States.
Without an understanding of where to access or how to log online, for many out of work Americans, a lack of Internet access often makes finding any kind of employment unusually difficult. Teaching digital literacy skills is vital to our growing economy and the decline of unemployment numbers. JobScout's Chief Operating Officer Stephanie Margossian sums up the role of JobScout in our economic recovery and future best: "This is not about fitting people into our old economy. It's about preparing them for our new one."