Looking For Employees with Soft Skills? Recruit Gamers.

Attracting talent with all the tech or hard skills you need represents just about any industry’s greatest pain point. But those are teachable. What’s harder are those employable skills that correlate with a human’s dynamic capacity to feel and respond. And contrary to the stereotype, those who game represent an untapped pool with such skills that are going overlooked.  Esports journalist, Travis Gafford, vehemently refutes what many of us are thinking. “Gamers,” he attests, “are not antisocial basement-dwellers. They’re leaders, entrepreneurs, and visionaries.” There’s no question that games promote problem solving, presenting players with a variety of challenges and obstacles that they must overcome in order to progress. But empathy? Adaptability? How can an autonomous, predominantly dextrous pastime nurture an employable suite of people skills that rely on, well, people?

1. Empathy

According to global VR director, Chris Milk, “Video games are the ultimate empathy machines.” When interacting with other characters, creatures, or cultures in an immersive gaming experience, players gain a perspective and understanding for circumstances different than their own, and in a safe environment with more opportunities for exploration than in real life. MIT’s Ilya Vedrashka takes this sentiment even further and states, “video games are the closest thing we have to a universal language.”

2. Time Management

Time management games represent its own, popular genre of casual video games focused on fast, real-time allocation of resources to fulfill specific game objectives in a specific order. These games often assume actual work simulation themes, where the player is required to manage a business. The 1983 arcade game Tapper is the prototypical time management game, where the player is a bartender who has to serve patrons before their patience expires. Reacting to incoming requests during play and serving them in the most effective manner yields the greatest rewards. It does in real life, too. 

3. Adaptability

Games can be unpredictable, and players must be able to adapt to changing circumstances in order to succeed. The importance of flexibility, resilience, and perseverance are all a player has on their resume in games, as the who-you-knows, or what school you went to holds no value in a player’s success trajectory. Because of this, award-winning game developer, Jane McGonigal goes on to add, “Gamers always believe that an epic win is possible and that it’s always worth trying, and trying now.” 

Rockefeller himself went as far as putting a higher value on people skills than a purchasable commodity. “I will pay more for the ability to deal with people than for anything under the sun.” Today, the US Department of Labor agrees, claiming that soft skills are even more important than the 3 R’s (reading, writing, and arithmetic). They’re also agnostic, applicable to every industry. As employers are starved for talent today, perhaps adding ‘gaming’ to a desired skill set will yield a more employable candidate. Considering 90% of your future workforce classifies themselves as gamers, your hirable talent pool may have just gotten a lot bigger.

What soft skill do you value most in an employee?

Skillsgapp finalist for Cool Tool and Trendsetter Awards: The EdTech Awards – EdTech Digest, 2023

The largest and most competitive recognition program in all of education technology.

Recognizing the biggest names in edtech – and those who soon will be.

We celebrate who’s who—and what’s next.

The EdTech Awards recognizes people in and around education for outstanding contributions in transforming education through technology to enrich the lives of learners everywhere.

Featuring edtech’s best and brightest, the annual program shines a spotlight on cool tools, inspiring leaders and innovative trendsetters across the:

  • K-12
  • Higher Education, and
  • Skills and Workforce sectors.

Read more.

Certifications v. Degrees: Experts Weigh In

According to qualifications assessor, Andrew Smith, the debate between the employable value of certifications versus diplomas is pointless, yet one that persists among industry year after year. On one hand, he argues, degrees are the foundation for a lifelong learning journey and supports career progression. Certifications, on the other hand, reflect more of a micro view of a person’s measurable aptitude within a skills-oriented domain. 

In other words:

Degrees = A good measure of a person’s long-term capability within a given discipline Certifications = a good measure of professional capability and immediate employability.

As we look at the current unfilled workforce crisis at hand, the valuation of either one is perhaps best quantified through the lens of simple math.

We don’t have a people problem in filling our workforce, but a skilled people problem, specifically within industries like healthcare, information technology, and advanced manufacturing, where Bachelor’s Degrees are not typically required for most jobs. For a competitive advantage in today’s immediate job market, certifications should have a huge leg up on the more traditional post-secondary pathways, including the fact that those assessments adapt to the workforce landscape typically faster than academic institutions do. 

As such, many high schools have implemented hands-on CTE programs that provide students with real-world experience in those industries right around them, offering internships and other work-based learning opportunities to help students gain experience right out of high school. But the extent to which they can do this varies depending on a variety of factors, such as the location of the school, the resources available, and the preferences of the students and families. 

So as the discussion surrounding which post-secondary path to take persists, does our skills gap. Indeed the percentage of high schools promoting more diverse post-secondary pathways is increasing as educators and policymakers recognize the importance of preparing students for a variety of career paths, but is it fast enough to make an impact when we need it most?

Are you considering hiring for skills versus degrees? We’d love to hear from you below!

Tina Zwolinski on Being Mission-Driven to Reach Underserved Youth Through Gaming

This post is part of The Founder Factor, where you go behind the scenes with South Carolina’s most impactful entrepreneurs so that you can discover the strategies, ideas, and mindsets you need to unlock your next business breakthrough. The Founder Factor is brought to you by Designli (South Carolina’s top app development firm) and Word of Web

Stepping into the world of gaming to help the younger generation have a brighter future with more job opportunities, Zwolinski has broken the barriers of career awareness and access through innovative technology. Read full blog here.

In 1997, Tina Zwolinski launched a branding and marketing agency that she spent the next 23 years growing and expanding. While working with Millennials and then Gen Z in the marketing arena, she began to see the pressure put on youth to follow the high school to 4-year college path as the only solution to finding a career. Zwolinski saw this on a deeper scale as her nonprofit work took her to underserved youth who weren’t shown the opportunities out there. “I began to ask, ‘What can we do differently, and what would that look like? But I never would have thought the answer would mean exiting my company,” she says.

But in 2020, that’s exactly what she did. Exiting her business, Zwolinski was on a mission to connect youth to the millions of career opportunities that didn’t require the traditional 4-year degree path. This led her to form her startup company called skillsgapp, which produces Skillionaire Games™. “Foundationally, we are a workforce pipeline development company,” she explains. “But as our mission, we connect youth to life-changing careers through game-changing play.” 

According to Zwolinski, students make decisions about what they “want to be” based on what they see, and in schools, they only see a select few careers like doctors, lawyers, and teachers. However, skillsgapp helps create career and pathway awareness for students through 10 different games, all of which focus on in-demand careers that are often overlooked or stigmatized. “We introduce careers to a student from entrance to exit,” she says. “They are put in environments that let them see themselves, as any gender or race, in various careers, showing them what average salaries are, what local colleges have programs for these fields, and practicing the skills needed for that career. For some students, going through a game means they are ready to sit for certification, allowing them to go straight into a job.”  Read full blog here.

UMASS Boston, Verizon, and Skillsgapp: Department of Commerce $2.97M Grant to Enhance Digital Connections in Minority Communities

UMass Boston has launched a pilot project to increase broadband access and additional services for students and anchor communities with funding from a two-year, $2.97 million grant from the Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s (NTIA) Connecting Minority Communities Pilot Program. UMass Boston is one of 12 schools to receive the NTIA funding designated for Minority-Serving Institutions (MSIs), Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), and Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs).

Vice Provost for Research Bala Sundaram and Associate CIO Apurva Mehta conceived the UMass Boston project, Addressing Digital Access Gaps in Education (ADAGE), during the COVID-19 pandemic. Early in the pandemic, the university was able to pivot from traditional classroom instruction to synchronous online classes and implement a Chromebook loaner program. For segments of the student population, though, participating in online learning came with a serious obstacle: a lack of access to high-speed internet.

Sundaram explained: “As a university with majority-minority demographics, the UMass Boston community is disproportionately affected by uneven broadband access. We designed ADAGE to reduce the technology access gaps we saw growing during the pandemic.”

ADAGE’s three-pronged approach includes increasing the university’s capacity to offer hybrid/flexible courses, expanding access to high-speed internet and devices, and exposing students to technology career paths.

“We anticipate highly promising results from ADAGE. This two-year pilot study will give us the opportunity to evaluate just how much impact having access to broadband, computers, Hyflex learning, and introductions to IT career pathways has for our students and anchor communities,” said Mehta.

The university is strengthening the campus technology infrastructure by retrofitting classrooms for synchronous online courses. HyFlex is a solution for driving student success because it offers remote and in-person learning options to the diverse student community. The project goal is to convert 58 classrooms, a third of the classrooms on campus, to support the HyFlex modality. Studies have shown that students in HyFlex classrooms perform as well as their face-to-face peers academically, while also benefiting from having agency in how they learn and participate in their classes.

Through a partnership with Verizon’s Digital Inclusion Program, 200 students will receive a Verizon Jetpack (mobile hotspot device). The students will also receive a Microsoft Surface Go computer, and gamified content created by experts in fields such as app development and information literacy and security.

One hundred families from UMass Boston’s anchor communities will be enrolled in Verizon’s Digital Inclusion Program to receive Jetpacks, too. Participating families will also receive Microsoft Go computers and technical training. Families will be selected with the help of four UMass Boston centers active in the anchor communities: Institute for Asian American StudiesMauricio Gaston Institute for Latino Community Development and PolicyWilliam Monroe Trotter Institute, and Institute for New England Native American Studies.

To create workforce and career pathway awareness, ADAGE will leverage UMass Boston’s professional development courses combined with a broad range of technology skills trainings through platforms such as Skillsgapp, LinkedIn Learning, and Apple’s Everyone Can Code and SWIFT App Development.

These learning opportunities will enhance students’ skills in fields such as coding and create awareness of specific career opportunities. For example, Skillsgapp, accelerates and democratizes workforce development through engaging mobile gameplay. Skillsgapp games, which are available in English and Spanish, provide awareness about careers in cybersecurity by simulating tasks and scenarios that succeed in being informative, at least in part, because they are so entertaining. Practical details about cybersecurity careers, training, and salaries are integrated into the games.

Go to News Release.

NEXT Launches Accelerator Program – Skillsgapp Selected for Cohort #1 

NEXT kicked off its first-ever accelerator program on Monday, March 6th. This new program introduces a curated 10-week curriculum, taught with the expertise of local former founders and business leaders. The first cohort, comprised of high-growth tech companies, will work with program leaders to build a growth plan to take their startup to the next level. This accelerator aims to grow and scale some of the region’s high-potential startups by providing dedicated resources to their specific challenges and needs. 

“We saw a gap in the ecosystem and decided to develop this program to coach and lead in the specific areas where we know founders need the most help,” says Scott Millwood, cofounder of an early-stage seed fund in Greenville and a two-time startup founder himself. 

This program leads to a presentation in late May and the content is focused on leadership development, team building, business planning and funding. 

The 11 companies participating are:

  • Bottle Titan
  • Custom Donations
  • Mapsheet
  • North 7th
  • RAAMP
  • Ruffian Software
  • Safe Helipad
  • Skillsgapp
  • TestedHQ
  • Vicinity Capital
  • WAVS Custom

Read More.

EdTech Digest: State of EdTech 2023-2024 – Skillsgapp Named Top 100 in K-12 and Workforce

STATE OF EDTECH 2023-2024: The Minds Behind What’s Now and What’s Next, featuring:
>> 10 edtech companies to watch
>> EDTECH’S TOP 100 [from K-12, to higher ed and workforce]
>> 1000 companies transforming education
Link to Download Issue

Gamification: The “It” Word in Workforce Development

The term gamification first appeared when Nick Pelling coined the “deliberately ugly” word in 2002, when tasked with developing a game-like interface for ATM and vending machines.

But gamification, while not a part of our lexicon until recently, has been around for centuries and played a role in significant advancements. The Periodic Table of Elements, an iconic symbol in science, was created by Russian scientist Dmitri Mendeleev. He wrote the names and properties of the sixty-five known elements on individual cards, hoping to predict new ones. After falling asleep at his desk while moving the cards around, he awoke to see the repeating pattern in the elements’ behavior, making him one of the first scientists to use gamification to complete an educational task. 

Gamification in Skills Development

Fast forward to this century’s technology, and the leap to gamified skills development is a natural one. As Dmitri Mendeleev demonstrated, games leverage the human tendency to influence one’s thinking process as a method to architecture human behavior to induce engagement, innovation, and productivity.

  1. According to the International Journal of Educational Technology in Higher Education, gamification increased:
    • 12.23% in retention
    • 7.03% overall performance 
  1. The U.S. Department of Defense uses gamification to safely train soldiers due to an astounding:
    • 11% increase in knowledge recall 
    • 14% increase in procedural knowledge
    • 9% greater retention of knowledge
  1. Scientific studies show that students who learn with gamified content that includes prizes push course completion from under 20% to 90%.

Gamification in Workforce Development

Engaging youth about careers with mobile gaming has also already proven to be a valuable tool in workforce development, as it offers a unique opportunity to engage with the next generation in job exploration using their favorite form of entertainment. In fact, a mobile, gamified approach to workforce development checks just about every box in recruiting today’s sustainable, vetted talent pipeline. Here’s why:

  1. Mobile games reach a broader, diverse audience, including those who may not be interested in or have access to traditional career exploration resources, including rural and inner-city communities.
  2. Players can engage in experiential career discovery, allowing them to engage in simulated work environments and learn about different career paths in a hands-on experience. 
  3. Industry-relevant skills are developed, including problem-solving, critical thinking, and teamwork. 
  4. Mobile technology can directly connect players with post-secondary pathways and employers around them based on interest and proficiencies and their location.

What more?

  • 95% of Gen Z have access to smartphones
  • It’s where they spend more than 7+ hours a day 
  • 90% of them classify themselves as mobile gamers

Mobile gaming presents an unprecedented opportunity for industry to reach their future talent pool wherever they are, on their phones, with gamified content that engages, influences and skills. Industry videos watched only once, annual job fairs, or overly-tasked educators with limited time to invest in career awareness are not enough to fill the talent shortage estimated to cost industry a $1.2 trillion loss this decade. By making career exploration fun, accessible, and interactive, mobile games can inspire young people to pursue careers in a variety of industries and build a strong, diverse workforce for the future.

Interested in a workforce game demo? See how states are using free-to-play mobile gamification to create awareness and access for youth to skilled careers in their own backyard.

“STEMINISM”: Women play a key role in filling the STEM Gap

According to Italian experimental particle physicist and first-ever woman General Director of CERN, Fabiola Gianotto, “Science has no passport, no gender, no race, no political party…science is universal and unifying.”  However, according to the American Association of University Women, women still make up only 28% of the workforce in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), with a particularly high gender gap in some of the fastest-growing and highest-paid jobs of the future, like computer science and engineering.

Gender Stereotypes

STEM fields are typically viewed as masculine, yet the concept of a “math brain” shows no cognitive biological differences between men and women. According to a study conducted by Stanford, boys from higher-income and predominantly white areas did perform significantly higher in math, even compared to girls attending those same schools. However, girls score higher than boys in math in lower-income, predominantly African American areas, which account for 25% of our school districts. Why the disparity? One administrator from a predominantly white district observes, “Teachers, who are predominantly women, may have math anxiety from their own childhood stigmas, and they assume girls need to work harder to achieve the same level as boys.” The response was different when the same question was asked of a predominantly African American elementary school. “We know that STEM fields tend to perpetuate male-dominated cultures that may not support women and minorities, but my students don’t yet. They just do their math.”

Underrepresentation in the Workforce

Girls have fewer role models to inspire their interest in STEM fields, seeing limited examples of female scientists and engineers in books, media and popular culture. There are even fewer Black women role models in math and science. Serita Acker, an internationally recognized creator of academic programs to increase underrepresented students in the STEM fields reports, “The last time I watched a movie or TV show about a person of color who was a scientist, engineer, or mathematician was ‘Hidden Figures’ and that came out in 2016.” Which is in part to blame for the fact that by the time students post-secondary, women are significantly underrepresented in STEM majors — in fact, only around 21% of engineering majors are women and only around 19% of computer and information science majors are women.

Did You Know?

  • Nearly 80% of the healthcare workforce are women, but only about 21% of health executives and board members are women, and only about a third of doctors.
  • 38% of women who major in computers work in computer fields, and only 24% of those who majored in engineering work in the engineering field.
  • Men in STEM’s annual salaries are nearly $15,000 higher per year than women 
  • Latina and Black women in STEM earn around $33,000 less than their male counterparts.
  • 11.5% of people employed in STEM fields were women of color, making up approximately one-third of all women in these fields. 
  • Only 19 of the 616 Nobel Prizes awarded between 1901 and 2019 in Physics, Science, Medicine and Physiology were awarded to women.

The future of STEM is female.

With women representing just shy of half of today’s workforce, you don’t have to have a math brain to know that the current gender gap doesn’t add up. 

Here are a few easy ways for educators and parents to close it.

  1. Scale back focus on STEM as higher education conversation, as the journey to a career in STEM starts much younger for both genders. The early stages of education are crucial to a child’s development, and don’t always involve a book. One study found that simply having a lack of friends in a computing class can decrease the probability of a girl studying the subject by up to 33%
  1. Promote engagement in technology at a younger age, which will help allow girls’ interests to develop free of societal bias. Educational institutions and governing bodies should embrace initiatives for children to become both familiar with and gain hands-on experience with technology
  1. Highlight female industry voices. Or better yet, be one. That same study found that 73% of high school girls with inspirational teachers said they were interested in studying computing. This figure fell to 26% for those who did not have an inspiring role model. One way this can be achieved is by establishing mentorship programs to show how women navigate these industries while learning from real female experiences. By promoting female leaders within STEM of all races and cultural backgrounds, women will feel that the industry is more accessible to them, as they see women like themselves succeeding in it.

Who is your favorite female in STEM?

Beyond the Wrench Podcast: Leveraging Gamification to Promote Technician Careers-Tina Zwolinski, skillsgapp

This generation of technicians learns differently. Tina Zwolinksi, CEO & Founder, skillsgapp, shares her knowledge on how gamification can engage the younger generation and attract them to technician careers. Click here to listen.

(1:02) Guest Background
(3:12) Defining and Communicating with Gen Z
(17:12) Embracing the Digital World
(23:01) What is Gamification?
(33:29) Familiarizing Young Kids with the Industry
(52:11) skillsgapp Gamification

  • Discover ways to engage with your workforce pipeline earlier
  • Scale career awareness and pathway access, especially for the underserved
  • Gain a competitive advantage for recruitment supported by meaningful data