News Roundup – 5/24

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Our weekly roundup of education technology, workforce technology, and venture capital news.

The No. 1 skill companies are hiring for is also the hardest to find, according to new research – New research from ADP reveals the increasing importance of soft skills, particularly a strong work ethic, in the workforce tech industry. According to results from a survey conducted by ADP, while technical skills remain crucial, soft skills like problem-solving, time management, communication, and a strong work ethic are highly sought after by employers. To address the talent gap exacerbated by the ‘great resignation’ companies are prioritizing upskilling and reskilling so by demonstrating strong soft skills during job interviews, candidates can gain a competitive edge. In a world where AI integration is on the rise, these soft skills are becoming even more valuable, with communication being highlighted as a key skill for 2024.

Our portfolio company, Pathstream, is a leading provider of digital skills credential programs for career advancement, helping students from all backgrounds gain marketable skills.

A Growing Number of Community Colleges Are Building HBCU Pipelines – The article discusses the emergence of pathways from community colleges to Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), such as the HBCU Pathway program at Washtenaw Community College. These initiatives provide guaranteed admission and in-state tuition to community college students looking to transfer to HBCUs, fostering a sense of community and support for underrepresented students. This collaboration has resulted in increasing transfer rates to HBCUs and has provided students with a supportive environment conducive to academic and social success. The growth of these alternative pathways to higher education reflects a broader trend of community colleges becoming key preparation steps for students exploring higher education opportunities. In the edtech and impact investment sectors, these initiatives showcase innovative approaches to promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion in higher education, highlighting the potential for scalable and impactful investments in programs that support underrepresented student populations.

Introducing Edtech Playbooks – Reach Capital has launched ReachIn, a learning repository that offers edtech startup founders tailored resources including playbooks, market maps, and benchmarking metrics. The Edtech Playbooks collection provides practical guidance like the K-12 Sales Playbook, Intuit’s Design for Delight, retention analysis tips, John Danner’s Product-Market Fit Series, and business development insights. By sharing this wealth of resources, Reach aims to support education entrepreneurs in navigating challenges and leveraging opportunities in the edtech space, ultimately facilitating the growth and success of startups at the intersection of learning and technology. Check out all of the playbooks here.

Is the secret to getting rural kids to college leveraging the entire community? – Despite high high school graduation rates, there are numerous challenges rural students face to access and succeed in higher education. Key issues include financial barriers, transportation challenges, internet connectivity, and family responsibilities. In these areas, place-based partnerships involving various local organizations to improve outcomes for rural students is crucial. Initiatives like the Rural Educator Academy in Appalachia, the Kinai ʻEha program in Hawaii, and rural alliances in states like Indiana and Texas are examples of efforts to address these challenges. These initiatives focus on training educators, providing holistic support to students, and offering career and technical education pathways to combat rural shortages of skilled workers and improve post-secondary access for rural students. For individuals in the edtech and impact investment sectors interested in supporting initiatives that aim to enhance educational opportunities and outcomes for rural students, exploring these ideas could lead to great opportunities.

AI adoption will drive both hiring and layoffs in 2024, half of tech leaders say – The article delves into the impact of AI adoption on the tech industry, highlighting a mix of layoffs and hiring anticipated by business leaders in the next six months, pointing out the challenges in finding top tech talent amidst the rise of emerging technologies. For individuals in the edtech and impact investment space, the focus on upskilling employees to be more AI savvy presents opportunities for investment in educational programs and tools that facilitate this transition. The discussion around the need for better screening methods to improve access for Latino candidates underscores the importance of diversity and inclusion in the workforce, which can be addressed through innovative edtech solutions. Additionally, companies’ planned increase in AI investment signals a growing market for edtech solutions that cater to upskilling employees in AI-related roles, such as cybersecurity analysts, data scientists, and AI engineers. The emphasis on internal development programs and tech certifications related to AI presents avenues for investment in educational platforms that support continuous learning and skill development in the context of AI technologies, as well.

Schools Must Dig Deep with Root Cause Analysis to Truly Tackle Absenteeism – In this short piece, Kevin Dougherty, an edtech strategist and former educator, discusses the growing issue of chronic absenteeism in U.S. schools, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, and the need for educational leaders to address this challenge. It emphasizes the role of educational technology in tackling chronic absenteeism effectively. Dougherty advocates for integrating technology with student-centric educational models to enhance engagement and ensure consistent attendance. The main takeaways include redefining the role of teachers to facilitate learning tailored to individual needs, conducting root cause analysis to identify specific factors contributing to absenteeism, ensuring the relevance of learning to real-life applications, strategically using educational technology for personalized learning and engagement, and fostering community and leadership collaboration to address underlying causes of absenteeism. There is a clear importance in leveraging technology and collaborative efforts to improve student engagement and reduce chronic absenteeism in schools.

Our portfolio company, Concentric Educational Solutions is tackling chronic absenteeism through a variety of tactics. Learn more about their work.

Private equity finds its next bet: college admissions – You may be unaware of the challenges faced by companies involved in US college entrance exams, particularly ACT Inc., which has experienced financial losses. Private equity firms are now stepping in to assist these companies by taking majority stakes, but this move is raising concerns among education advocates about transparency and fairness in the testing process. The article emphasizes the potential impact of private equity ownership on the transparency of testing processes and the concerns raised by economists and education advocates. There has also been a shift towards private equity investment in education services, indicating a trend that could impact the landscape of standardized testing and educational services. This information underscores the importance of monitoring the effects of private equity involvement in the education sector and the implications for students and educational institutions.

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