The JobScout Story
You often hear that 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 meaningfully 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 job seeking 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 falls into this category, according to Pew Research Center.
These people are 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 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, which seeks 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 in California. The call to action was to create "something" to aid the millions of Californians who rely on 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 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 making 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 understanding what a URL is before they can even think about the possibility of coding in HTML."
Without an understanding of where to access the Internet or how to go online, many unemployed Americans have an unusually difficult time finding work and getting back on their feet. Investing in digital literacy efforts that engage users and change their lives in meaningful ways is vital to growing our economy and addressing our unemployment rate. JobScout's Chief Operating Officer Stephanie Margossian sums up the mission of JobScout in regards to our economic recovery and our nation’s future best: "This is not about fitting people into our old economy. It's about preparing them for our new one."