Laguna resident launches startup to fill skilled workforce shortage

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Cynthia Jenkins, chief marketing officer at skillsgapp. Courtesy of Anna Goddard

A South Laguna woman has co-founded a mobile gaming app firm she believes could help resolve the dearth of the nation’s skilled workforce.

Cynthia Jenkins of Laguna Beach and her business partner Tina Zwolinski claim their new venture, skillsgapp, holds enormous potential to open up career opportunities for youth not on the four-year college degree track but who’ll need more than a high school diploma to earn a decent wage.

Skillsgapp offers customized gaming apps and augmented-reality training as well as a suite of products and services for skills training. Jenkins argues her suite of tools could help state governments, schools, economic development organizations, and public agencies build and recruit a qualified workforce pipeline.

“Traditionally, public sector agencies and private industries have tried to address workforce shortages through various websites, events, and marketing campaigns highlighting manufacturing careers as viable options,” Jenkins said in a prepared statement. “They’ve often targeted high school seniors or recent high school graduates. We created skillsgapp in order to offer an innovative and technologically engaging lineup of products and services that begins with engaging middle-schoolers, all the way through high school and beyond.”

Manufacturers, technical schools, economic development agencies, and labor statisticians agree: the U.S. is facing a “middle-skills” workforce shortage. These jobs require some training but not a college diploma.

With the disappearance of traditional manufacturing jobs, more than half of all available American jobs now require midlevel skills in areas like robotics, machining, fabricating, complex assembly, big data analytics, computer coding, and other industry-specific credentials that are not taught in most high schools. But only 43% of the U.S. workforce is trained for those jobs.

“Too often, parents, career counselors, and school curricula fail to consider a career in a skills-based industry like manufacturing a viable employment pathway,” Zwolinski said in a statement. “There’s a bias against careers outside of traditional, four-year degreed professional jobs.

Jenkins and Zwolinski ultimately hope to shift the public’s perception that a skills-based job pathway is only a back-up career.

Learn more at skillsgapp.com.

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