There is a lot of talk right now about whether the educational system in America (and the world) is preparing workers for the increasing importance of the #GigEconomy. The Solo City Project, a 2016 study funded by the Knight Foundation, pointed out the growing need for entrepreneurial training in primary education and suggested it should begin in the 4th grade. That may be an aggressive view, but it highlighted the abject lack of content for this growing sector. A few courses exist, most notably the entrepreneur class in the MBA program at Babson College as well as scattered programs at the community college level. On the whole though, especially at the most basic levels, there is a need for career education to help new and veteran workers maneuver successfully in the new world of work. Enter Samaschool, an organization that is providing much needed training for those entering the Gig Economy.
Samaschool is a relatively new US based offshoot of this idea and is intended to help people in the US develop the work readiness skills needed to use the gig economy to earn supplemental income and gain resume-building experience; it is a venture that bridges the gap between workforce development and education to help people become micro – entrepreneurs. Jennifer Curry, the NYC Director, noted they are not advocating for or against the gig economy, but they recognize that these businesses could offer opportunities for workers who have been excluded from traditional job channels or are struggling to re-enter the workforce. However, with their entrepreneurial and digital components, these gig roles require new and different skills for workers to be successful.
Over the last two years, Samaschool established training programs in New York and San Francisco. With support from the City of San Francisco, they created a free, “one stop shop” for workers wanting training for the gig economy called “the Gig Economy Starter Kit”. The 8 module course can be done on-line or in a classroom setting. Many of the sessions are in easily accessible locations, like the main public library. Students typically complete the program in6 – 10 hours over a week.
The content is a combination of workforce readiness, customer service and specific gig industry knowledge. Topics include running your own on-line business, personal branding, finance and tax issues, and personal safety. On the gig front, students spend time in class creating profiles on various sites. In fact, one of the metrics for success of the program is how many are able to secure gigs from the on-line platforms to which they have applied.
The program works for students of all ages, though Samaschool works with a large number of young adults seeking to enter the workforce. According to Caleb Jonas, the San Francisco Director, the ideal participant has decided the independent path may be the right one for him/her in order to build and test new skills or to generate income while in a training program. Some trainees have work experience, but many have none so the workforce readiness content, like how to respond to an angry customer, can be very valuable.
The Samaschool partners are key to the participation levels. The Stride Center in Oakland as well as City College have offered programs to their communities. In San Francisco, a key partner is the Office of Workforce Development. The participants in those sessions tend to be unemployed and eager to work, but may also include people who are underemployed. The Aspen Institute Future of Work Initiative recently noted this partnership with the city of San Francisco as a model for communities across the country where policy makers need to understand the changes occurring in our economy.
Growth is on the horizon for 2018. They hope to grow the number of program participants from 650 in 2017 to over 5000 in 2018. They also hope to bring some of the insights gained from running Samaschool to the public sector. This will be critical, since as the Gig Economy continues to add more and more independent workers, policy makers will need to address key factors like portable benefits and worker classification. Samaschool, as a key player in this world, will be able to help.
For more information on The #Gig Economy, check out my new book, Thriving in the Gig Economy