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Member Spotlight: SkillSmart’s Jason Green Solves Unemployment Issues Through New Currency

Jasmin Lee

Jason Green is a cofounder of SkillSmart.

SkillSmart helps you find your dream job. Whether you are looking to launch a career or find your fit, the company is there for you. SkillSmart is a next-generation job-placement platform that matches job seekers to employers based on skill proficiency.

We caught up with Jason Green, VP of Business Development and cofounder of SkillSmart, to talk about his views on the current job market and how he stepped into the startup world after working in the White House for four years.

What is SkillSmart?

SkillSmart is an online platform focused on aligning education and employment opportunities. We are the skills market place for the skills you have, skills you need and the skills you want. We allow employers, educators and job seekers to operate more in place and orient themselves around skill sets.

What personal experiences led you to start SkillSmart?

One, my work in the White House—I was an associate counsel to President Obama for four years, responsible for a lot of private-sector engagement. When we were struggling through the economic downturn in 2008 to 2010, the question on everyone’s minds was jobs. A lot of the complaints that we were hearing from the executives and CEOs were about the difficulty and the lack of access in finding people with the right skill sets. That was when I started to investigate what really caused the inability to find people with right skills.

Second, I noticed the problem through my mother—I remember her coming to me with her resume and asking how it looked; she had this 10- to 12-year gap on her resume. Of course, she was raising my two sisters and me. It was startling to me that she didn’t feel comfortable putting down any of the skills that she had developed in the time period where she managed a household of five, ran a PTA and volunteered at various activities. I realized that there wasn’t a good mechanism for her to demonstrate those substantial skill sets that she had developed.

So SkillSmart was born to answer two issues: a misalignment between educational institutions and employers, and the process of matching one’s skill sets to the workplace.

Who benefits from your platform? How do you help employers as well as job seekers?

First of all, we break down the jobs into different components and help job seekers transfer their experiences beyond their application. We help employers see that some of the candidates do exist once they pass the traditional application proxies that are supported by job descriptions and resumes. Once employers shift away from traditional proxies, like “Five years of experience,” it gets easier for them to find qualified candidates for the workforce.

We also recognize that not everyone is going to qualify; even when you try to hire someone with a skill-based approach, not everyone is going to have that skill set. Through SkillSmart, we try to be more transparent about what skill sets one need to be successful and tell job seekers where to go to build those skills. We then make sure that employers understand that these candidates are developing skills particular to the proposed positions. SkillSmart is free to job seekers and employers pay it.

Could you tell us little bit more about the career development and training aspect?

When we were starting the company, we decided not to become a direct-training company. So SkillSmart itself does not provide any type of career development or training. Instead, we serve as the connective tissue in the market. As a job seeker, you get a score on how qualified you are for a specific position. If that score isn’t very high, we break down the result and notify you with the skills that the employer wants. We also suggest places to go to develop those skills in your region—we could direct you to a particular course at a local community college, a program at one of our online partners, or maybe an accelerator course at General Assembly, etc.

What piece of advice do you have for other edtech startups in the beginning stage?

Focus on customer segment—it sounds so basic, but it is really important to be able to focus on a customer in developing your product and get your first paying customer. As an early stage startup, you often feel hesitant to go in to a particular direction because there are so many options. Going one direction does not close other paths; it certainly allows you to build a fine product for a specific customer. From there, you can build onto what you have.

Jasmin Lee