6 Ways Community Colleges are Jumpstarting Our Next Generation of Talent

The dynamics of the workforce have shifted dramatically in recent years, and will continue to evolve at the pace of both technological advancements and our industry needs. At the same time, the rise of Generation Z, born between the mid-1990s and mid-2010s, has brought a new wave of talent into the job market, with their unique needs and aspirations. 

In addition to the obvious financial benefits of lower cost than a private, four-year institution, here is where we see community colleges emerging as a vital – and shorter – bridge between education and talent pipeline needs.

1. Current, Industry-Relevant Education

One of the primary strengths of community colleges is their agility in providing practical, industry-focused education, locally, where four-year colleges provide a broader, more evergreen curriculum. Gen Z, known for their pragmatism, has already begun to lean into the immediate relevance of the education they receive from two-year programs. 

2. Faster Entry into your Workforce

Because four-year degrees require a more substantial time commitment, the delay in entering the workforce can be a significant drawback for Gen Z, who are eager to start their careers as quickly as possible. By providing fast-track options to a degree or certificate in two years or less, community colleges help Gen Z bridge the gap between education and employment. 

Here are a few stand-outs we’ve identified in streamlined programs designed to address immediate, industry-specific workforce needs:

  • Renewable Energy and Green Technology: With the growing emphasis on sustainability and renewable energy sources, community colleges are often at the forefront of offering programs related to solar technology, wind energy, and green building practices. 
  • Advanced Manufacturing: Many community colleges offer an industry-driven concentration of certificates that combine various aspects of advanced manufacturing/industry 4.0, including CNC machining, automation, robotics, CAD, 3D printing, mechatronics, welding, iOT, Lean/Six Sigma and quality control. These certificates give students a well-rounded foundation, making them highly employable with minimal additional training needed.
  • Healthcare and Allied Health Programs: With our healthcare worker shortage at an all-time high, community colleges have quickly adapted their healthcare programs, including nursing, dental hygiene, medical assisting, radiologic technology, and surgical technology with hands-on clinical experience and technical training to ensure graduates are ready to meet the needs of today.
  • Computer and Information Technology: No longer a four-year mandate in many companies, community colleges offer programs in computer and information technology that focus on our most-needed skills, such as network administration, cybersecurity and web development, so graduates are well-prepared to enter the IT workforce with hands-on experience in managing systems, troubleshooting issues, and developing software applications.
  • Agricultural and Horticultural Programs: In rural and agricultural communities, community colleges often provide specialized programs specific to their local agriculture, horticulture, and viticulture needs. These programs offer practical experience in farming, agribusiness, or vineyard management, giving students a strong foundation for careers in their own community.

3. Flexible Learning Options

Gen Z is the first generation to grow up with digital technology as an integral part of their lives. They value flexibility and adaptability in their education. Community colleges are embracing online learning, hybrid classes, and flexible scheduling to accommodate the diverse needs of both. This flexible approach not only suits their learning preferences but also reflects the modern workplace, where remote work and digital literacy are increasingly important.

4. Local Focus

Community colleges have a strong tradition of collaborating with local businesses and industries to ensure that their programs meet the real-world demands of our job market. This proactive approach provides Gen Z students with valuable opportunities for internships, apprenticeships, and networking within their chosen field, giving Gen Z a direct path to employment. Four-year colleges aren’t typically designed for the same level of engagement, making “cold” recruiting more costly and yield fewer work-ready candidates.

5. Soft Skills

In addition to technical skills, Gen Z recognizes the importance of soft skills such as communication, problem-solving, and adaptability. Community colleges are well-equipped to provide a holistic education that includes both technical and soft skill development. Small class sizes and engaged faculty create an environment conducive to nurturing these skills. 

6. Inclusivity and Diversity 

Gen Z is a generation known for its commitment to inclusivity and diversity. Community colleges often serve as accessible and welcoming institutions for students from all walks of life. They cater to a diverse range of backgrounds, ethnicities, and age groups, making them inclusive learning environments that mirror the diversity of the workforce. This diversity enriches the educational experience, helping Gen Z students develop a broader perspective and cultural competency, which are increasingly valued in today’s global job market.

According to national expert on education and workforce development, Richard Kazis,  “The key to being a successful community college in terms of getting people better jobs is knowing where the better jobs are, working with employers, building relationships, having your curriculum aligned with what they need and being seen as a partner for economic vitality in the community.” Community colleges have risen to the occasion, offering a range of benefits that check all the boxes. Including Gen Z’s.

As GenZ enters our workforce, it’s crucial that they receive an education that aligns their values and goals with your practical needs. Community colleges are nimble, provide practical, industry-relevant education, and offer a vetted talent pool with every graduating class, right in our own backyards. 

Have your recruiting efforts shifted to include more community college candidates?

Untapped Talent: Shift Your Focus to High School Graduates

The workforce landscape is evolving, and with it, the requirements for filling in-demand jobs are changing. While a college degree has traditionally been the primary focus for many companies, a growing number of roles don’t require a four-year degree. This shift is leading us to an untapped talent pool: high school graduates. In this blog, we’ll explore the potential of high school graduates as a valuable resource for companies and how early engagement and awareness can open the door to mutually beneficial opportunities.

The Changing Face of In-Demand Jobs

The evolving job market is characterized by rapidly changing industries, driven by technological advancements and shifting business needs. Many of these new job opportunities are in sectors that require specific skills and expertise but don’t necessarily demand a four-year degree. Roles such as cybersecurity, healthcare, manufacturing, and many others can be successfully filled by individuals who have honed these skills through focused training and experience.

The Untapped Potential: High School Graduates

High school graduates represent a vast reservoir of untapped talent. They are at a crossroads, deciding their next steps, which often involve navigating through a maze of career choices and further education options. Many of these young adults have aptitudes and interests that align with the in-demand roles we discussed earlier.

Here are some compelling reasons why high school graduates are a valuable focus for companies:

  • Cost-Effective Talent: Hiring individuals straight out of high school can be cost-effective for companies. They can acquire and develop skills through alternative pathways like apprenticeships, online courses, or vocational training, avoiding the financial burden of a four-year degree.
  • Fresh Perspective: High school graduates bring fresh perspectives and are often eager to learn and adapt. They can provide a diverse range of experiences and insights that may not be present in a more traditional workforce.
  • Diverse Backgrounds: This pool of talent is diverse and can offer companies a unique blend of backgrounds and experiences, fostering innovation and adaptability.
  • Long-Term Investments: By focusing on high school graduates, companies have the opportunity to make long-term investments in their workforce. Early engagement can lead to loyal employees who grow with the company.

Early Engagement and Awareness

To harness the potential of high school graduates, companies can employ several strategies:

  • Early Career Awareness Programs: Companies can collaborate with schools to develop early career awareness programs. These initiatives introduce middle and high school students to various career options, emphasize the importance of skills, and shed light on accessible pathways to in-demand roles.
  • Engagement Through Technology: Leverage technology, such as mobile apps and gaming experiences from Skillionaire Games, to engage with youth in or out of school. These platforms provide opportunities for companies to spotlight their jobs and pathways early and allow youth to “try on” careers.
  • Partnerships with Educational Institutions: Forge partnerships with high schools, community colleges, and vocational training centers to create structured pathways for students to gain practical experience and relevant skills.
  • Apprenticeships and Internships: Offer apprenticeships and internships that high school-aged youth can access directly, including virtual gameplay. These opportunities can serve as a bridge to the workforce, allowing students to gain real-world experience while working toward full-time employment.

Filling the In-demand Jobs

High school graduates are a largely untapped talent pool that holds immense potential for companies looking to fill in-demand jobs that don’t require a four-year degree. By focusing on early engagement and awareness, companies can build relationships with high school students, introducing them to viable career paths and offering accessible, debt-free ways to attain the skills needed to thrive in the workforce. This not only benefits companies but also empowers young individuals with opportunities to jumpstart their careers without the weight of traditional higher education debt. In a rapidly changing job market, it’s time to recognize that talent can be found in diverse places, and the journey to a fulfilling career doesn’t always begin with a college degree.

Career Gaming: Not Your Parents’ Workforce Development Tactics

In an era of rapid technological advancement and evolving workforce dynamics, companies are constantly striving to innovate and stay ahead of the curve and their competition. However, one area where change has been slow to adapt is workforce development. As the newest workforce generation, Gen Z, enters the job market, it becomes increasingly crucial to engage them in a way that resonates with their digital-native behaviors. One innovative solution is career gaming, which allows Gen Z to explore careers in playful virtual environments, discover opportunities, and take control of their future in a fun and interactive way.

The Challenge of Engaging Gen Z

Generation Z, born between the mid-1990s and the early 2010s, is the first generation to grow up with smartphones and constant connectivity. They have a unique set of values, expectations, and preferences when it comes to learning and career exploration. Traditional workforce development approaches, such as job fairs, videos and websites, often fall short in engaging this tech-savvy generation.

The Power of Career Gaming

Career gaming offers a compelling solution to this engagement challenge. Here’s how it’s transforming the talent development landscape:

  • Accessible and Engaging: Gen Z is already accustomed to spending time on their smartphones – 7+ hours a day. Career gaming brings career exploration directly to their devices, making it accessible from anywhere and engaging.
  • Interactive Learning: Games provide an interactive and immersive discovery experience. Gen Z can explore a wide range of careers by “trying them on” in a virtual environment, fostering a deeper understanding of what each job entails.
  • Discovery and Advocacy: Career games empower individuals to discover opportunities and pathways they might not have considered otherwise. As they navigate virtual careers, they can advocate for their own futures based on their discoveries during play.
  • Skill Development: Career games incorporate skill-building exercises relevant to specific professions, allowing players to acquire practical skills while having fun.
  • Player, Industry, and Mentor Interaction: Online career games facilitate player-to-industry interactions and connections through in-game mentoring, creating a support system and network for Gen Z to learn from and a way for Gen Z to connect with future employers.

The Future of Talent Engagement

As the job market continues to evolve, talent engagement and recruitment strategies must evolve too. Career gaming is not just a trend; it represents the future of workforce development. Companies that embrace this innovative approach are not only better positioned to attract and retain Gen Z talent but also to foster a workforce that is more informed, engaged, and capable.

Conclusion

Career gaming is revolutionizing the way companies engage with Gen Z and prepare them for the workforce. By meeting Gen Z where they are—on their phones and in playful virtual “internship/apprenticeship” environments—companies are ensuring that the talent pipeline remains vibrant and adaptable to the ever-changing demands of the job market. The future of talent engagement is exciting, interactive, and just a few taps away on your smartphone.

5 Reasons Why Younger is Better for Career Awareness

To fulfill the demands of our changing workforce, there’s been a lot of discussion about the optimal age to start engaging kids in a more comprehensive career discovery than the traditional doctor/lawyer norm in school. While ‘younger is better’ is arguably a unanimous sentiment globally, the controversy lies in allocating appropriate resources to support earlier (than high school) intervention, with a more balanced emphasis on our most in-demand careers and skills. But, unfortunately here in the U.S., employers need employees now, making investing in tomorrow’s workforce seemingly feudal in alleviating their immediate pain. And on the educator side, schools are still reeling from the lowest reading and math scores in decades, relegating the less pressing ‘career exploration’ to the back seat. 

Meanwhile, our talent pipelines continue to dwindle to a prospective 85 million talent deficit over the next five years, and poverty cycles continue to persist, despite there being enough people to fill those pipelines. Earlier awareness to these in-demand careers isn’t just one answer to closing this gap, it’s the only answer. 

So what is the most impactful age to initiate meaningful career exploration in order to move that needle? Research suggests (and we agree) middle school, even as early as eleven years old.

  1. Enhanced Cognitive Development: According to Piaget’s theory of cognitive development, children typically enter the Concrete Operational Stage at around 11-12 years old. He considered this stage a major turning point in a child’s life, because it marks the beginning of logical or operational thought when they start to think more abstractly and consider hypothetical scenarios. At this stage, kids are equipped to understand the complexity and variety of different careers, as their ability to reason and make decisions are strengthened. 
  1. Strengthened Decision-making: Erikson’s theory of psychosocial development emphasizes the Identity Versus Role Confusion stage starting at twelve. According to him, this is important to the process of forming a strong identity and developing a sense of direction in life. Exploring various career options during this age can facilitate the development of a coherent identity and future career goals. 
  1. Increased Career Satisfaction: Those of any age who actively engage in career exploration tend to experience higher levels of career satisfaction based on clear expectations. Exposure to various careers can facilitate in children those same results – a clearer alignment of their interests with their future academic pursuits. Research published in the Journal of Vocational Behavior confirms that early career exploration aids in reducing potential conflicts between aspirations and realities.
  1. Improved Academic Performance: Educational psychology researcher Diana Raufelder published a study in the Journal of Education and Work revealing that middle school students who engaged in career exploration activities showed improved academic motivation and achievement, as well as increased self-efficacy in their academic pursuits. It essentially sets off a ripple effect: When students understand the relevance of their studies to potential future careers, they become more motivated and focused on their education.
  1. Reduction in Stereotype Bias: Early exposure to different careers can also help challenge gender and racial stereotypes and biases related to specific occupations. Providing children with a variety of role models and career options can eradicate misconceptions about certain jobs before they’ve ever learned them – some much younger than eleven – opening up a broader range of opportunities and promoting more equitable career choices.

 While thirteen is our magic number for initiating gamified awareness and access to local careers and opportunities –  specifically to under-served and underrepresented communities – in an ideal world:

  • elementary school should be reserved for career discovery;
  • middle school for awareness and planning;
  • high school for preparing. 

At what age do you start your job awareness and recruiting efforts?

Game On!: Fueling Gen-Z’s Self-Efficacy through Career Video Games

By: Aminata N. Mbodj

Introduction

During the training process, just as on the field, one crucial factor that greatly influences an individual’s continued motivation and positive learning outcomes is self-efficacy. Self-efficacy refers to a person’s belief in their own ability to succeed in specific tasks or situations (Bandura, 1997). Research studies have consistently revealed that individuals possessing high levels of self-efficacy exhibit enhanced persistence, increased effort, and improved performance when faced with challenging tasks (Chen et al., 2001).

Understanding Self-Efficacy

Self-efficacy, recognizing and fostering the belief in one’s own capabilities, is the secret ingredient to effective skill development and performance. Within the context of the manufacturing industry, self-efficacy significantly influences motivation, adaptability, and the ability of workers to navigate complex work environments (Lent et al., 2000). Consequently, by actively nurturing self-efficacy, organizations can effectively cultivate a more skilled and self-assured workforce.

About Gen-Z

As the newest generation entering the workforce, Gen Z exhibits unique characteristics and preferences when it comes to learning and engagement. Growing up in the digital age, they have a strong inclination towards interactive and immersive learning experiences (Oblinger, 2003). By leveraging gaming, organizations can effectively capture the attention and maximize the learning potential of the Gen Z workforce by designing engaging, efficient, and effective learning experiences.

Integrating career video games in industry workforce development constitutes not only a cost-effective and scalable solution that aligns with Gen-Z learners’ preferences and maximizes their engagement (Sung et al., 2019), but also an asset to attract and retain Gen-Z talent by providing an innovative and effective learning experience (Reeves & Read, 2009). Career games can thus help you develop a vetted workforce capable of meeting industry demands and adapting to technological advancements.

Four (4) ways Skillsgapp’s Career Games can Engage a Vetted Pipeline

At Skillsgapp, their Skillionaire Games help you engage a workforce that excels in both individual and team settings.

1. Aptitude

First, their games enhance engagement and motivation by creating an immersive and interactive learning environment (Connolly et al., 2012). Their ability to capture the learners’ attention fosters a strong desire to actively participate in the learning process.

2. Action

Second, game-based learning promotes experiential training, allowing players to apply their skills in simulated real-world scenarios (de Freitas & Oliver, 2006). Through simulated environments, players can gain practical experience and develop their abilities in a risk-free setting, which translates into improved performance when faced with actual manufacturing challenges. 

3. Awareness

Third, video games provide immediate feedback and adaptive learning, enabling personalized skill development and addressing individuals’ needs (Plass et al., 2013). The timely feedback provided by the mechanics in Skillionaire Games allows players to understand their strengths and areas for improvement, facilitating a more tailored and effective learning experience. 

4. Access

Finally, video games facilitate collaborative and social learning opportunities, fostering teamwork and knowledge sharing (Squire & Jenkins, 2003). By incorporating multiplayer features or collaborative elements, the games encourage interaction and cooperation, enabling players to learn from each other’s experiences and build essential teamwork skills.

By providing progressive challenges, opportunities for skill development and practice, and promoting a growth mindset and perseverance, skillsgapp’s career video games contribute to building competence and mastery (Gee, 2003). The dynamic nature of their video games allows adaptive play tailored to Gen Z’s strengths and weaknesses; this, in turn, leads to increased self-efficacy and confidence (Papastergiou, 2009).

Conclusion

Through creating a sense of self-efficacy in your future workforce, game-based learning fosters  engaging and interactive learning experiences that enhance motivation, skill development, and performance. By investing in career gaming technology, you can revolutionize your recruitment methodologies, attract and retain Gen-Z talent, and ensure a highly skilled workforce capable of driving industry growth.

Aminata N. Mbodj, a First-Year Ph.D. Candidate in Human-Centered Computing at Clemson University, Aminata is deeply fascinated by the humbling process of learning. Three questions keep her up at night: “Which cognitive processes do we use to build mental models of the world as we experience it?”, “To what extent can we use algorithms to map these structures out?”, “What resulting computing solutions are accessible, so as to optimize our everyday learning?”



References:

Bandura, A. (1997). Self-Efficacy: The Exercise of Control. W.H. Freeman and Company.

Chen, G., Gully, S. M., & Eden, D. (2001). Validation of a new general self-efficacy scale. Organizational Research Methods, 4(1), 62-83.

Connolly, T. M., Boyle, E. A., MacArthur, E., Hainey, T., & Boyle, J. M. (2012). A systematic literature review of empirical evidence on computer games and serious games. Computers & Education, 59(2), 661-686.

de Freitas, S., & Oliver, M. (2006). How can exploratory learning with games and simulations within the curriculum be most effectively evaluated? Computers & Education, 46(3), 249-264.

Gee, J. P. (2003). What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy. Palgrave Macmillan.

Lent, R. W., Brown, S. D., & Hackett, G. (2000). Contextual supports and barriers to career choice: A social cognitive analysis. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 47(1), 36-49.

Oblinger, D. (2003). Boomers, Gen-Xers, and Millennials: Understanding the New Students. EDUCAUSE Review, 38(4), 37-47.

Papastergiou, M. (2009). Digital Game-Based Learning in high school Computer Science education: Impact on educational effectiveness and student motivation. Computers & Education, 52(1), 1-12.

Plass, J. L., Homer, B. D., & Kinzer, C. K. (2013). Foundations of Game-Based Learning. Educational Psychologist, 48(4), 243-259.

Reeves, B., & Read, J. L. (2009). Total engagement: How games and virtual worlds are changing the way people work and businesses compete. Harvard Business Press.

Squire, K., & Jenkins, H. (2003). Harnessing the Power of Games in Education. Insight, 3(1), 5-33.

Sung, Y.-T., Chang, K.-E., & Liu, T.-C. (2019). The effects of integrating mobile devices with teaching and learning on students’ learning performance: A meta-analysis and research synthesis. Computers & Education, 128, 1-18.

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.

Winning at Workforce: Career and Pathway Awareness Starting in K-12 is the Competitive Advantage

In today’s ever-evolving labor market, there are more jobs available than ever for young adults to pick from depending on the type of career that best suits them. However, this is only possible if we start equipping young adults with the right tools earlier so they can better understand the wide range of careers available to them, and just as importantly, how they can access and prepare for them, especially careers within the in-demand fields of cybersecurity, manufacturing, and the life and health sciences. This will ensure the future workforce has the skills needed to remain competitive globally. 

The Benefits of Career Awareness and Pathway Access at an Earlier Age 

There are many benefits to starting early when it comes to career and pathway awareness. First, it helps young adults explore their passions as they understand more about the different types of jobs available. This leads to better decisions about which classes to take in high school, where to go to college or trade school, or whether college or trade school is even necessary for the desired career path.  

Additionally, it helps young adults develop confidence as they pursue their chosen field, be better prepared to answer questions about their chosen field or navigate job prospects without feeling lost or insecure. Finally, it gives students an advantage when entering the job market because employers know that these candidates have an understanding of what’s out there and are ready to hit the ground running from day one, minimizing costs associated with both training and attrition. It also leads to more diversity in the workforce since students from all backgrounds can benefit from career and pathway awareness in K-12. 

The Role of Technology in Career and Pathway Awareness 

One way to foster career and pathway awareness is by leveraging technology as part of the learning process. Technology can provide students with virtual experiences in different industries through videos, interactive games, or simulations that allow them to explore different roles from right where they are. This can help give them valuable insight into potential careers before they even enter college or join the workforce! Additionally, technology can provide teachers with resources, such as lesson plans or online courses designed to introduce students to different fields in engaging ways, while still following curriculum guidelines set out by their school district or state board of education. 

A Meaningful ROI

By introducing kids to various career paths earlier, we can create a generation of engaged learners who understand how their skills fit into the larger job market upon graduation—and employers will reap the rewards too. Utilizing technology as part of students’ learning process allows us to reach far beyond traditional methods used for teaching about careers; this helps us ensure that all students have equal access, regardless of background or location. As leaders in our organizations, it’s our duty to invest in these future generations now so that we create a well-rounded, sustainable workforce for tomorrow!

On a scale of  1 – 10, with 10 being the best, what score would you give your state, region or industry for your career and pathway awareness efforts with students in K-12?

Site Selection Magazine: 2023 Workforce Guide – featuring skillsgapp’s Skillionaire Games, Rad Lab, and South Carolina

Workforce has been cited in Site Selection Magazine’s annual survey of corporate consultants as the No. 1 factor in site selection decisions for several years in a row. The 2023 Workforce Guide is a special report providing insight into workforce development partnerships and practices across the U.S.

Skillsgapp and South Carolina’s Life Sciences Industry Feature: A Workforce Gaming Initiative, Rad Lab, is having a positive impact on the future workforce: Wanna Be A Skillionaire?

Members of a South Carolina industry association say a fun online game with prizes could put young people in line for prized STEM careers.

The industry is life sciences, the fastest-growing industry among South Carolina’s knowledge economy sectors, having grown by more than 42% since 2017. The organization is SCBIO, a statewide life sciences organization representing more than 1,000 organizations statewide employing more than 87,000 professionals across the sector’s entire range of disciplines. In early November 2022, it partnered with Skillionaire GamesTM — the business-to-consumer side of Greenville-based education technology firm skillsgapp — to announce the recent launch of Rad Lab, a mobile phone game that provides organizers with trackable geographic data and customizable incentives based on a player’s location, performance and proficiencies as they compete to gain ever-higher levels of skill in various STEM-based life science areas.

Read More Here.

Value Inspiration Podcast #243: Tina Zwolinski, CEO Skillsgapp – on game-changing workforce development

A story about using technology to connect youth to life-changing careers.

This podcast interview focuses on product innovation that has the power to help manufacturing and cybersecurity businesses to attract and grow a sustainable workforce pipeline.

During this interview, you will learn four things:

  1. How to find transformative innovation opportunities by zooming out to the global picture
  2. How to create a flywheel for growth when there’s no real owner of the problem. 
  3. How you can solve a global challenge by approaching it locally.
  4. The power that unlocks when purpose and technology blend.

Listen here:

Meet Workforce Development’s Secret Ingredient: The Avatar

Do you know one reason so many jobs continue to go unfilled? Kids can’t “see” themselves working in them. They don’t know what opportunities exist, as we discuss here, and even when they do, certain careers might feel unachievable, unreachable. When a student can insert a representation of themselves into environments that exemplify industries like cybersecurity or the life sciences, they understand that they can have a place there.

Serita Acker, an internationally recognized creator of academic programs to increase underrepresented students in the STEM fields believes it is imperative that we meet our youth where they are when it comes to career awareness, specifically in minority populations. “Where do our youth spend most of their time? Snapchat, TikTok, YouTube, video games, anywhere their phone goes. However, do our youth realize that computer scientists develop the software for these platforms and that computer engineers create and design the electronics that they enjoy so much?” The overall lack of STEM role models of color in media and entertainment is in part to blame, according to Acker. “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. Students need to see people who look like them portrayed in these fields.”

Enter the Avatar

The Proteus Effect describes a phenomenon in which the behavior of an individual, within virtual worlds, is changed by the characteristics of their avatar. This change is due to the individual’s knowledge about the behaviors typically associated with those characteristics. Like the adjective protean (meaning versatile or mutable), the concept’s name is an allusion to the shape-changing abilities of the Greek god Proteus. The Proteus effect was first introduced by researchers Nick Yee and Jeremy Bailens at Stanford University in June 2007, as an examination of the behavioral effects of changing a user’s embodied avatar.

In another study conducted this year, researchers “consistently found … high degrees of congruence between the respective characteristics of the avatar, the actual self, and the ideal self.” Similarly, a 2019 study found that “people balancing the motives of self-verification and self-enhancement design their avatars to be similar to their real selves.” The fact that digital avatars most often reflect the user is critical knowledge for gamified technology designed to connect kids to careers and pathways—provided with the chance to present themselves how they wish, players take on an active role and self-realize in the game, especially within a safe environment void of biases or judgment.

This agency and expression is especially important for young players in minority groups who are often underrepresented in the workforce. Kids learn by watching and mimicking, so if they never see anyone who looks like them in a particular field, the possibility of that future is not easily imagined. Equipped with a DEI-minded avatar creator like in Cyber Watchdog or Rad Lab, though, students have the ability to visualize themselves in career environments, which puts them one step closer to attaining success and narrowing the skills gap.

When you play video games, do you customize your avatar to look like you, or someone different?

  • 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