Local company aims to aid the inexperienced and unemployed

Eduardo Munoz / ReutersJobScout hopes to use social gaming to create an accessible way for such people to educate themselves about tasks as simple as using a webmail account to as difficult as applying for jobs online.

Eduardo Munoz / ReutersJobScout hopes to use social gaming to create an accessible way for such people to educate themselves about tasks as simple as using a webmail account to as difficult as applying for jobs online.

As hiring has moved online, jobseekers without online skills or connectivity have become increasingly disadvantaged. A San Francisco company has designed a mobile platform to aid unemployed people who lack access to technology.

JobScout hopes to use social gaming to create an accessible way for such people to educate themselves about tasks as simple as using a webmail account to as difficult as applying for jobs online.

Because California libraries were filled with people who lacked Internet skills and were searching for employment, JobScout started as a project for the California State Library. The project soon turned into a startup when CEO and founder Christina Gagnier’s team decided to spin it off as a company.

Gagnier explained how many job opportunities, including government jobs, require people to apply online. That ends up discriminating against people with limited educational opportunities or no Internet access or skills.

JobScout guides people through the initial stages of getting onto the platform through the use of offline “anchors” such as libraries and community organizations. The platform also reaches out to unemployed people who lack computer access but nonetheless have smartphones.

“We are actively trying to bridge the gap between these wholly offline potential users and bring them online, at their own pace.” Gagnier explained.

After logging onto JobScout using a computer or smartphone, users are virtually guided by tutors who teach web skills. For every lesson completed, a badge is earned to track progress and access games to reinforce the skills previously learned.

“It’s perfect,” said Vanessa Morell, who first accessed JobScout at her local library and now uses it from home. “I know people can be overwhelmed and frustrated about how complicated web use is. After creating my own resume and going through e-mail lessons, I realize it’s something simple enough for my mother to access and use as well.”

The platform is free to all users. The company’s application is already in more than 200 library locations across California, and will first be used in The City this month. A few months later, JobScout will be available in every public library in San Francisco.

“So many people come into our libraries that haven’t had much exposure to the Internet,” said Connie Barrington, a librarian for the Imperial County Free Library system, which was an early user of the platform. “This is a blessing because we only need to walk them through the first portion of it and then they can do it on their own.”

ssaya@sfexaminer.com

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