WIP Episode 319 Steven Lee

SkillUp is helping non-degree holders find short-term, low-cost training

A conversation with Steven Lee, CEO, SkillUp Coalition
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In this episode of Work in Progress, I’m joined by Steven Lee, CEO of the SkillUp Coalition, a nonprofit that has already supported two million people looking for training and job pathways in in-demand careers. We discuss the first four years of the organization’s work, and what is ahead this summer, including the launch of a new AI-powered tool.

The SkillUp online platform is free.

It offers both a curated selection of training programs that are low-cost, short-term, and offer industry-recognized credentials, and a job search tool that lists work in high-demand industries needing the skills you can learn through that training.

Lee explains that SkillUp purposely targets people without college degrees and earning under $40,000 a year to ensure they have equal access to careers offering livable wages plus benefits.

“Our mission is really to give them a leg up in their journey towards a skilled, high-quality job. We’ve tried to make it easy and simple for them to get the highest-quality information for them to make the right choice – whether that’s the right career that someone should choose, whether that’s the right training program from which they might get a credential to get that skill.

“We select programs that are a combination of low-cost because sometimes folks don’t have the financial resources, short-term because sometimes folks don’t have the time, and as best as we can, some proxy of quality. From the hundreds of thousands of programs out there, we’ve selected down to a few thousands that we think are best-in-class.”

Lee says the organization’s jobs tool only lists jobs that don’t require a college degree. “The jobs have to pay living wage in their local community, based on the MIT Living Wage Calculator. They also have to be with companies that we’ve identified as being good at upskilling their workers,” he explains.

Lee describes the SkillUp platform as a “choose your own journey” platform, with the user picking the types of training and jobs that they want to explore on their own.

In July, the nonprofit is rolling out a new tool – powered by AI – that it hopes will help the user discover even more career pathway options by “recommending” very specific programs to that individual. It’s called CareerNavGPT and it was developed by SkillUp in partnership with Brighthive, AdeptID, and Burning Glass Institute.

Listen to the podcast to learn more about how the CareerNavGPT tool will work. Lee and I also talk about the push toward skills-first hiring and whether employers are truly acting on the idea.

You can listen to the podcast here, or download and listen wherever you get your podcasts. You can also find it on our Work in Progress YouTube channel.

Episode 319: Steven Lee, CEO, SkillUp Coalition
Host & Executive Producer: Ramona Schindelheim, Editor-in-Chief, WorkingNation
Producer: Larry Buhl
Theme Music: Composed by Lee Rosevere and licensed under CC by 4
Transcript: Download the transcript for this episode here
Work in Progress Podcast: Catch up on previous episodes here