Nine Ventures Pitch at Impact Hub’s Inaugural Workforce Development Accelerator Demo Day

Impact Hubs’s Workforce Development Accelerator Demo Day

Nine ventures pitched solutions to provide better jobs for Austin’s low-income workers at Impact Hub’s inaugural Workforce Development Accelerator Demo Day Monday night.

The 11-week accelerator, sponsored by Capital City Innovation, Workforce Solutions and Impact Hub, worked with nine ventures. Other sponsors included Google, JPMorgan Chase & Co., BuildFax, and Digi.City.

“We are creating this new path forward for the city of Austin and beyond,” said Ashley Phillips, managing director of Impact Hub.

Impact Hub will be launching another cohort in the fall around affordability, Phillips said.

“If you have an idea, we want to hear it,” she said.

Austin is doing really well for many people, but others are being left behind, said Tamara Atkinson, Chief Executive Officer of Workforce Solutions. One of the goals of the accelerator is to help Austin residents find better jobs and get out of poverty. The city’s poverty rate is around 14.5 percent.
The nine ventures in the accelerator gave presentations on each of their ventures and their plans to transform Austin’s workforce.

Jereka Thomas-Hockaday, founder of the Central Texas Allied Health Institute

CENTRAL TEXAS ALLIED HEALTH: Jereka Thomas-Hockaday, presented her venture: Central Texas Allied Health Institute, which will offer certificate, applied associate and applied bachelor’s degree programs in the medical field. It is partnering with MedToMarket BioSkills Lab for classroom and laboratory space.

“Our mission is to create a world where vulnerable communities can have quality healthcare education at an affordable price,” Thomas-Hockaday said.

The goal is to offer a for-profit career college education at a community college price, Thomas-Hockaday said. It is targeting the low-income populations in East Austin to provide healthcare training to obtain jobs in the medical field, she said.
It plans to graduate 200 students per year. It plans to begin enrolling students in the fall of 2019.

Lav Chintapalli, CEO and founder of Alcye

ALCYE: Lav Chintapalli, CEO and founder of Alcye, presented her online platform for peer to peer learning, mentoring, and social learning.
The focus isn’t solely on content, it’s on collaboration and exchange, Chintapalli said.

Peer engagement helps students with learning, she said. Alcye creates community and engagement, she said.

“There are a lot of platforms out there, and Alcye sits right in the middle of them,” Chintapalli said.

“We want to help increase learning and create community in any adult learning environment,” Chintapalli said.

In the end, everyone is looking for connection, community and shared learning and Alcye provides that, Chintapalli said.

Alcye plans to launch in Austin and rollout nationwide and eventually internationally, Chintapalli said.

THE NOURISH FOUNDATION: Olivia Hernandez, founder of The Nourish Foundation, created a catering and event business that provides its workers with living wages and gives them life skills development opportunities.

One of the people she worked with, Omar, worked his way up in her company, Hernandez Hospitality, to become an onsite manager. He left her organization with a 66 percent wage increase, she said. He is now studying to get his bachelor’s degree in math and physics.

“That’s what happens when you get a living wage,” Hernandez said.

Through giving these opportunities to her workers, Hernandez developed The Nourish Foundation to reach more people.

MEDIATECH VENTURES: Paul O’Brien and John Zozzaro presented their idea for a media accelerator to help Austin’s creative economy.

“The problem that we’ve identified and that we’re most passionate about is a big one,” O’Brien said. “It’s that in the entire United States workforce in just about two years almost half of everyone is going to work for themselves in some capacity.”

These are freelance professionals, consultants, designers, journalists, musicians, O’Brien said.

“Nowhere is that more evident than here in Austin,” he said.

The challenge before all is that in the live music capital of the world, almost half of everyone works below the poverty line, O’Brien said.

Austin’s creative class is exploding now, but they aren’t being supported, O’Brien said.

MediaTech Ventures is developing its accelerator at the old Motorola campus and plans to roll out its program to other cities in coming years, said Zozzarro, a musician.

#WI – Ryan Steglich and Tasha McCarter founded #WI, a platform that connects top talent from diverse backgrounds to Austin companies.

During the accelerator, #WI interviewed more than 70 business leaders and community stakeholders about their access to diverse talent. A small group kept wanting to talk about the pipeline problem, Steglich said.

“The pipeline problem is an excuse,” he said.

Diverse workplaces financially outperform others, Steglich said. #WI stands for workforce inclusion, diversity, he said.

With Austin’s unemployment rate of 2.6 percent, the competition for talent continues to increase, Steglich said.

#WI has a relationship with BWSE – Black Women in Science and Engineering and with a diversity recruiter that servers Fortune 500 companies, said McCarter. #WI puts its network to work to find qualified diverse candidates to fill jobs at companies, she said.

“We build bridges before the need arises,” McCarter said.

#WI is a one-stop shop for posting jobs and recruiting diverse talent, McCarter said.

Chris Lofton founder of the Austin Coding Academy

AUSTIN CODING ACADEMY: Four years ago, Chris Lofton created the Austin Coding Academy to provide flexible and evening classes for students to learn to become web developers and software engineers.

“At Austin Coding Academy we give people opportunities who would not have them otherwise,” Lofton said.

Austin has a problem. About 55 percent of Austin residents make less than $40,000 a year and at the same time, an average salary for a web developer in Austin is $71,000, Lofton said.

There are companies that want to hire people and they cannot find them, Lofton said. The disconnect is training and education. Coding boot camps last, on average three months and cost $20,000, he said. Austin Coding Academy provides flexible, evening and part-time courses with the program costing around $9,000. Austin Coding Academy also provides mentoring, tutoring and support, he said.

The instructors are all professional developers, he said.

Austin Coding Academy has an 80 percent completion rate and an 80 percent placement rate, Lofton said. Hundreds of people have gone through the program, he said.

However, Austin Coding Academy wants to do more. It wants to serve the underrepresented populations that don’t have anyone in their network in the technology industry, Lofton said. It recently partnered with the Dreams Come True Foundation to put two people through its program that couldn’t afford it. It’s also working with Goodwill.

“I want Austin Coding Academy to be a talent pipeline for your company,” Lofton said.

“Help us change more lives, Austin needs us,” Lofton said.

Brianna Kablack, program manager with 3 Day Startup

3 DAY STARTUP: Brianna Kablack presented a 3 Day Startup program called Next Level targeted at accelerating the careers of middle-skilled workers through entrepreneurship education.

“In 2030, 85 percent of the jobs that will exist have not been created yet,” Kablack said.

3 Day Startup has run its entrepreneurship foundations program over 500 times in 30 countries around the world. And it has seen more than 100 companies launch from its programs, Kablack said.

At the core of what 3 Day Startup does is teach the entrepreneurial mindset, she said.

Next Level has a career canvass that helps people reach their goals, Kablack said. It has partnerships with the Austin Coding Academy and Nourish Foundation. It ran a pilot program with those organizations and plans to run another program this fall.

PELOTONU- Navid Ladha and Hudson Baird founded the nonprofit organization that helps working adults earn a college degree on time and debt free.

“We’re all here because a skills gap exists in Austin,” Ladha said.

Last month, there were 43,000 jobs open in Austin and a workforce in Austin that wants them but there isn’t a bridge between the two, Ladha said. That’s where PelotonU comes in, he said. Its education pathway fits around the lives and schedules of working adults, he said.

PelotonU is not a college but it facilities the introduction to qualified, high-quality online degree programs and it provides support to students to help them graduate on time. Its graduation rate is 81 percent, compared to 16 percent at Texas community colleges, he said.

KEYUP: Adam Chasen and Mary Hannah Duhon created KeyUp, a web platform built to connect individuals with training programs and support services.

Americans are taught to believe there is only one path to gaining skills in the U.S. and that’s through a four-year college degree, Duhon said.

But that’s not true, people can become a nurse, electrician or a computer programmer without obtaining a four-year degree, she said.

KeyUp gives young adults from low-income families an alternative path to middle-class jobs other than a four-year college degree, Duhon said.

KeyUp has spoken to 24 organizations that are willing to partner with them to help educate low-income adults in Austin, Chasen said.

By 2024, most jobs will require some training beyond high school, but not a four-year degree, Chasen said. KeyUp plans to help people get those skills, he said.

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