This Nashville tech firm says it has a solution for country’s skills gap
By Joel Stinnett – Reporter, Nashville Business Journal
As growing cities across the country struggle to find qualified workers for their changing economies, one Nashville company has developed a solution it thinks can build pipelines of talent.
Since it hit the market in 2014, YouScience has provided online assessments for more than 200,000 students in 700 schools across the country, including in Nashville. Those assessments are designed to help users choose the career path best suited for them. To do so, YouScience measures a person’s aptitude and determines a list of career matches.
It’s a tool the company believes can help identify more potential technology workers, particularly among populations that haven’t always been exposed to the industry and its opportunities.
Nashville has a scarcity of workers in software engineering, information technology, web programming, pharmaceuticals, general finance and office management, according to a 2018 LinkedIn report. YouScience co-founder and CEO, Philip Hardin, said the problem is not that there are not enough people capable of doing the work, it’s that those people haven’t been identified.
“Even though there is a skills gap, there is not a talent gap,” Hardin said. “We just need to reach students early in the talent pipeline, at their max potential, to uncover those talents and guide them into the right careers.”
YouScience’s assessment uses tests masked as games to measure talents such as spatial visualization, sequential reasoning and inductive reasoning. When students finish the 75-minute assessment they are given a report that highlights their strengths and explains what that says about them.
Then students are shown a list of careers in which their strengths are highly-valued. Someone with strong spatial visualization skills may make a good architect, graphic designer or engineer, for example. Finally, students can find out details about those jobs such as education needed, salary and demand in their area.
FACES AND SPACES OF NASHVILLE
The goal, said Hardin, is to make students aware of talents they may not know they have and to give them confidence to pursue careers related to those talents. This is especially important for women and minorities who either may not get exposed to certain careers or may not think they are an option because of social bias, Hardin added.
In its research, YouScience has found that while women’s interest in fields like computer technology is low compared to men, women and men have similar aptitudes for careers in those industries.
“Talent is much more equal distributed than opportunity,” Hardin said. “Diversity is not an option…we need to start now to develop and nurture that talent.”
YouScience has a contract with the state of Georgia for use in its schools, but Hardin said hopes to grow is by getting local chambers of commerce to sponsor the platform in its area schools and by working with community and technical colleges.
He said chambers have a vested interest in building an intentional talent pipeline instead of suffering from what he calls, “random acts of education” in which students pick careers solely based on interests while ignoring job demand. Chambers can also use the test’s data when recruiting new companies to town by pointing to the number of students who have an aptitude to work in that industry.
Meanwhile, Hardin said, community and technical colleges can use the data to recruit students that may not go to a four-year university, but have the skills to flourish in one of their programs.
“These kids have talents they are just different talents and the market needs them all, not just the high GPA students,” Hardin said. “If we give kids career recommendations that don’t align with the economy we aren’t doing them any good.”
YouScience, which has 15 employees in its East Nashville office, has raised $19 million from angel investors since it was launched in 2013 and counts prominent Nashville billionaire John Ingram as a board member. Hardin said he doesn’t know if the company will take on institutional capital in the future.
His focus for next year will be is expanding the firm’s footprint.
“We’re looking to engage with the business communities as an efficient way to spread our mission,” Hardin said. “Helping kids uncover what they naturally do well.”
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