Must Read Blog October 11, 2017

Closing the Employment Opportunity Gap: An Innovative Approach

The Bottom Line

Barriers to entering or advancing in the United States labor market have created economic insecurity for millions of Americans. This population, many of whom are women, minorities, and immigrants, often lack the skills and opportunities to find meaningful and / or sustained employment. They struggle with acquiring the level of training or credentials required for higher-wage jobs, have limited information about alternative careers, and lose jobs because they lack a support system to be successful in their roles.

This challenge – the employment opportunity gap – has stubbornly persisted, despite the best efforts of a diverse set of organizational stakeholders (e.g., local and federal governments, philanthropy, investors, companies and non-profit organizations) to close it. The numbers express the stark reality:

Tyton Partners has served as strategic advisor to four leading foundationsThe Joyce Foundation, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, The Rockefeller Foundation, and the Walmart Foundation – as they grappled with potential solutions to this problem and tested their hypothesis that technology-enabled solutions could be a positive force in closing the gap.

Since late 2015, we have been conducting analysis of the employment technology landscape. Our efforts include establishing a framework and taxonomy for organizing and understanding the companies within it and analyzing the barriers to growth and wide-scale impact of enterprises offering solutions that could benefit this audience. As a result of our work, and in support of the four foundations, we developed a database comprising hundreds of technology-enabled companies across four primary sectors and synthesized insights from interviews with numerous experts and investors working at the intersection of adult education and technology, as well as entrepreneurs actively engaged in the employment technology sector.

The Takeaways

Among the findings from this work, three dynamics emerged as core tenets underpinning the evolution and opportunity in the space:

  • Digital solutions are emerging that provide improved education-to-employment on-ramps and interventions specifically targeted at low-income, low-skilled individuals
  • The lack of early-stage funding is a significant obstacle to growth and innovation in the sector, particularly for those enterprises focused on this audience
  • Entrepreneurs and social enterprise leaders are seeking not only capital, but the shared mission and values, insight and expertise, access to networks and social influence that non-traditional sponsors can provide

A Catalytic Change Agent

Enabled by Tyton’s work, The Employment Technology Fund (“ETF” or the “Fund”) was created as a ground-breaking impact investing initiative of the New Venture Fund, made possible with funding from the four foundations. Tyton Partners served as a strategic advisor to ETF during its launch phase and helped initiate the Fund’s first two investments, announced in September 2017.  ETF’s purpose is to invest in high impact, scalable and innovative technology solutions that will support the ~103 million adults in the United States without a college degree as they seek a path to employment and to improve their earnings potential, careers, and livelihoods.

To Learn More…

Access The Employment Technology Fund: An Innovative Approach to Closing the Employment Opportunity Gap here. This white paper – jointly authored by Tyton Partners and ETF – describes the history of the Fund, Tyton’s role, and the groundbreaking collaboration among the four foundations and the New Venture Fund.  It describes ETF’s structure and investment process, and concludes with information on how to engage with the Fund as an investor, partner or company.  Click here to connect with our team on our work on the ETF.