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#ImpactAcceleration Series: Startups Stand Up to COVID-19

At a Glance

JFFLabs is featuring mission-driven startups building innovative tools and resources to help workers and businesses adapt in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Date March 23 - May 1, 2020
Location Twitter: #ImpactAcceleration | @JFFTweets
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The COVID-19 pandemic is causing tremendous uncertainty for everyone and in particular tens of millions of frontline workers who make their living in industries like retail, hospitality, food and beverage, and the gig economy, among others.

This is creating new challenges for those workers, employers, and the workforce and training systems as they pivot rapidly to respond to labor market disruptions.

Startups can be ideally positioned to address the challenges that arise at moments like these. Even as they themselves grapple with many of the same uncertainties that other businesses are facing, startups across the country and the world have built innovative, easy-to-use new technologies to connect workers and students with opportunities to learn, gain new skills, and prepare for an uncertain future.

JFFLabs identifies and partners with mission-driven tech startups that are creating innovative solutions to challenges facing workers and employers. These include, for example, more-accessible worker training systems and innovative assessment tools that help determine whether certain jobs are good fits for particular workers and companies. In a crowded landscape, we work only with entrepreneurs and companies who are poised to both grow and make a meaningful, positive difference for workers and learners.

We’ve been excited to see many of our startup partners working overtime to offer solutions to critical problems that are emerging during this moment. In the coming days, we’ll be highlighting some of the best products and services startups have developed to address education and workforce needs that have arisen during the recent economic slowdown.

In this urgent time, JFFLabs will continue solving problems in partnership with leading mission- and impact-aligned startups. Together, we’ll be identifying solutions and deploying them to learners and workers.

JFFLabs is leading a series on Twitter at #ImpactAcceleration, where we will feature select startups and their solutions, and illustrate how workers and employers can take advantage of these innovations in the face of change.

Training Leaders to Lead Through Uncertainty

Social confinement resulting from the spread of COVID-19 catapulted companies into a digital landscape overnight—a transformation that will likely become permanent for many. More than half of states will now partially re-open, testing the ability of countless businesses to bounce back. But skillful management and teamwork will require far more than the ability to video conference.

The abrupt shift to remote work has changed how teams work together, and many business leaders believe that ways of working have shifted permanently. Leaders need to be agile, flexible, empathetic, and resilient—positioning their teams to thrive even in the face of massive and unexpected disruption. This includes not only new management paradigms, but the criticality of engaging team members who are dealing with extraordinary stresses and anxiety due to the uncertainty of these times. What can the novel coronavirus teach us about leadership? What will help talent succeed in the post-pandemic workplace? Talespin—a company that uses immersive technology to help people become more emotionally intelligent, empathetic leaders—has developed a set of training modules designed to help leaders adapt and be more effective in the new world of work.

Real-World Entrepreneurship When We Need it the Most

Even as they safeguard lives, public health measures in response to COVID-19 have crippled the US economy at a scale not seen since the Great Depression. School closures and remote learning have wreaked havoc on countless families, and have brought to light the deep inequities that exist among our students nationwide–most notably access to food, social services, and basic technology. How long economic recovery will take is uncertain. Also uncertain is the future of education. What will the post-pandemic classroom look like, and what will students and educators need most? Social emotional well-being, mastering technology, and creating independent learners are among the new top priorities, all skills that also happen to be essential for entrepreneurs. This might be the best time ever to train the innovators and entrepreneurs most likely to help reshape our post-crisis society.

Developing Data Skills with Full-Tuition Scholarships

The jobs crisis triggered by COVID-19 worsens daily. Unemployment continues to disproportionately affect low-income workers with no financial cushion, ill-prepared to weather a labor collapse of this magnitude. These people need cost-effective, direct pathways to in-demand work. To support those most impacted by the pandemic, Colaberry–a social enterprise dedicated to developing the workforce of the future–has just announced full-tuition scholarships for its upcoming online Data Analytics and Data Science courses. At the heart of Colaberry’s mission is empowering individuals and organizations to thrive in the future of work, and that future has unexpectedly arrived.

Meeting Challenge and Opportunity Head On

Few, if any, industries have been left unscathed as a result of the current global health crisis. HVAC businesses have been hit particularly hard, given the need for social distancing and quarantining brought on by COVID-19. How can frontline service providers that rely on customer contact stay afloat in the face of such disruption? Interplay Learning, an award-winning provider of online training for skilled trades, is providing solutions in the trades. The company’s free ebook, How COVID-19 Is Impacting the HVAC Industry, details both the challenges and the opportunities HVAC businesses are facing, and demonstrates how to meet both head on.

Building Resilience Through Strengths

COVID-19 has completely upended the global talent market. Workers today have fewer opportunities to find or continue a career that unlocks their unique strengths. Employers’ talent pools are flooded with qualified candidates, and it’s more important than ever for them to understand the strengths, skills, and capabilities that already exist within their workforce. Cappfinity, a global leader in strengths-based assessments, is giving away “Strengths Profiles” to help people around the world use their strengths to build resilience, support others, and cope with the stresses of the post-pandemic economy.

Accelerated Learning Supports Frontline Health Care Workers

The United States is now officially the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic, and experts say a massive expansion of testing is essential to containing the spread. Many states are racing to set up drive-through testing sites and other makeshift testing centers, and those operations will require health care workers and volunteers who are well trained in identifying symptoms and adhering to safety and hygiene protocols while carrying out testing procedures.

A fast-thinking coalition of education and training providers recently teamed up to create a free training program to meet that need. Developed by Penn Foster in partnership with Southern New Hampshire University and Guild Education, this short-form 30-minute course offers training on how to conduct safe and accurate testing for the COVID-19 virus. The offering harnesses the potential of online learning at a time when the health care system must move at full speed while pivoting to respond to the COVID-19 crisis. More than 1,600 frontline health care workers have signed up for the training program since it was launched in mid-March.

Training in Job-Ready Tech Skills Now Free Online

3.3 million Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week—the biggest increase in new jobless claims in history. Those workers, and all workers for that matter, deserve opportunities to learn new skills that could prove crucial if they ultimately need to shift to new careers.

To help people who may be facing that kind of transition as a result of the COVID-19 crisis, global online learning platform Udacity has been offering a free month of access to its programs since March 25. Participants in any of the more than 40 Udacity courses taught by industry experts can work at their own pace as they learn valuable, in-demand skills in areas such as analytics, artificial intelligence and machine learning, digital marketing, software development, and cloud computing, as well as a newly launched program in product management with instructors from Google and Uber.

Innovations in Training Frontline Health Care Workers

Direct health care workers are on the front lines of this pandemic, and millions are stepping up and responding to COVID-19. Startups around the world are doing their part to support their efforts by creating innovative training models that help health care workers serve patients more effectively. ETF@JFFLabs investee CareAcademy provides an online platform through which domestic caregivers receive training that qualifies them for in-demand home health roles. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, CareAcademy developed a COVID-19 Certification Class and a suite of additional resources to help these critical caregivers stay safe, improve their skills, and provide the best care to their clients.

Making New Connections to Remote Work

COVID-19 has created a new urgency to connect displaced workers to jobs in sectors where labor is in demand, such as logistics and e-commerce. In many cases, companies must learn how to hire remote workers—fast. Vervoe, an AI-powered skills-testing platform, helps companies hire candidates by focusing on who can do the job, not who looks good on paper. To help both the people who need work now and companies that need new employees to handle a surge in business, Vervoe has created hiring guides that employers can use to learn best practices for connecting workers to jobs and careers that can be done virtually.

Real-World Learning Meets Students Where They Are—At Home

Today’s reality is that schools are closing, and now parents are leading students’ learning journeys at home—and sometimes the students themselves are in the driver’s seat. This shift to online homeschooling should not come at the expense of real-world learning. Nepris, the go-to cloud-based platform for connecting industry with K-16 classrooms online, is unlocking the knowledge and experience of professionals for students through virtual learning to meet students where they are—at home. Nepris has opened up its Industry Chats and Video Library so that any educator, student, or parent can have free, unlimited access through April 30. Details:

Millions of K-12 students in the US are making the transition from their in-person schools, classrooms, and teachers to learning at home. Many of the nation’s already hard-working educators now face the monumental task of pivoting to remote learning that is rigorous, consistent, engaging, and measurable. In this challenging moment, for too many school communities, easy-to-use high-quality training and resources have been scarce. Labster, a company developing fully interactive digital science labs, is responding by providing free access to online science courses for all closed schools and families affected by COVID-19. Science teachers and budding scientists alike take note–Labster can give you access to sample course mapping, online training, and virtual labs right now.