Tina Zwolinski
CEO Skillsgapp

CEO of soft skills and middle-skills gaming app company skillsgapp, has been appointed to the Academic Advisory Council of the Skilled Trades Alliance, a national non-profit of public and private organizations dedicated to addressing the skilled trade deficit in the US through providing customized approaches to sectors in the available talent pool including veterans, those pursuing second careers, and the youth audience.

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Welcome to the Use Case Podcast, episode 236. Today we’ll be talking to Tina from skillsgapp about the use case or business case for why her customers choose skillsgapp.

Skillsgapp transforms manufacturing and cybersecurity career awareness, access to job pathways and corresponding skills development into fun, engaging mobile video games.

Give the show a listen and please let me know what you think. Thanks, William

Show length: 24 minutes

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Music: 00:02 Welcome to RecruitingDaily, Use Case Podcast, a show dedicated to the storytelling that happens. Or should happen when practitioners purchase technology. Each episode is designed to inspire new ways and ideas to make your business better. As we speak with the brightest minds in recruitment, in HR tech, that’s what we do. Here’s your host, William Tincup.

William Tincup: 00:25 Ladies and gentlemen, this is William Tincup and you are listening to the use case podcast. Today. We have Tina from skillsgapp, and we’ll be learning about the business case of the use case for why her customers and prospects purchase skillsgapp. So without any further ado, Tina, would you introduce both yourself and skillsgapp?

Tina Zwolinski: 00:46 Absolutely. Thanks for having me. I’m excited to be here today and with your listeners. So I’m Tina Zwolinski, I’m the co-founder and CEO of skillsgapp, which is a problem and a solution all in one name, filling the skills gap, the people. So for your listeners, that deal with recruitment and technology, we use technology to build a workforce pipeline and the technology that we use is gaming. So I’d like to share a little bit more about that today with your listeners.

William Tincup: 01:19 Well, let’s just jump right into that. So workforce pipeline and we use gaming as an assessment?

Tina Zwolinski: 01:27 It’s actually the tool to create career awareness.

William Tincup: 01:30 Right. Okay.

Tina Zwolinski: 01:31 When you think about… Our focus is Gen Z . So that is for your listeners that aren’t familiar… That is middle school, high schooler college out of college entering the workforce about up to 24 years old. So that’s who they’re hiring, coming out of college right now with a few years of experience. And so our focus is there are… In Gen Z, there’s actually 2 billion of them. They are not finding out about all the careers that are available out there. So they might be aware of what they see, doctors, teachers, lawyers, whatever their parents are doing, but there are so many careers out there with so many jobs within those careers. And we saw a need for… Especially for anybody listening, that’s in manufacturing or in cyber technology, life sciences, that the youth were not really hearing about these careers so that when it came time to make decisions about post-secondary pathways, they weren’t aware of these jobs. And so they were going into the traditional careers. And so they were becoming a bigger and bigger skills gap for a lot of these high demand careers.

William Tincup: 02:46 So how did they… How did millennials… And we’ll go backwards. How did we find out? Because these are digital natives, right?

Tina Zwolinski: 02:54 Yes.

William Tincup: 02:54 They grew up with the internet, they’ve never known a world without the internet. I’ve got two sons that are both Gen Z , so I get it. But how did they become the generation that doesn’t know about these careers? What’s changed? There’s so many different splinters and different types of careers that there’s just kind of overwhelming? Or is it something else?

Tina Zwolinski: 03:21 I think it’s… It really has been a problem with all the generations of career awareness and accessibility to all the different careers. I think people discover them as they get out into the workforce and through other learnings, but with the youth today, even before COVID the opportunity to learn about all these careers in a day packed full of just trying to get your basic curriculum done was really a challenge. But for Gen Z, you’re right. Digital natives, they were born with a phone in the hand. and what’s really great about… The difference between Gen Z and millennials would be that Gen Z really knows how to learn things from YouTube, how to discover ways to do things they learn from TikTok. So they’re really about navigating for themselves, but then advocating what they’re learning and sort of the pathways of their interest.

So they really became a generation that was one for us. We had a branding and marketing background that focused on workforce development and youth. When we met Gen Z in our research and marketing and branding, they really became the ones that wanted to hear from industry, they wanted to learn from the doers and given the right tools they would be able to do a lot of the navigating on themselves. So when we think about… If you’re an HR, you’re looking to recruit and you’re looking at this next generation coming into your workforce, our challenge to listeners is, are you using the technology that they are? They’re on their mobile phone. And here’s some stats that might be interesting to your listeners is that 98% of this audience has access to a smartphone and they’re on their phones seven plus hours a day. And that is on top of homework or schoolwork.

So that is where they are. And looking at the statistics of things for entertainment, that this generation is doing, 90% classify themselves as mobile gamers. In fact, it’s the number one form of entertainment. So when they’re on their phones, more than listening, streaming music, streaming videos, social media gaming is their number one activity. So for recruiters, talent acquisition, when you’re thinking about how to reach this generation about your industry, but also to get this generation to try on your jobs, if you will, being in the environment, thinking about that mobile connection, that’s where they are. But then also thinking about what this generation is doing on their phones when you’re thinking about the ways to connect with them, to even reach out and recruit them. So for our games, the industries that we focus on, we have nine models and these were based on really in demand careers that were challenged with awareness.

So cyber security, aerospace, automotive, life sciences, advanced manufacturing, STEM, agriculture, skill trades, and soft skills. So if the youth… Even in someone that has gone off to college and maybe gets into school and is challenged with, “I’m not really sure about this career now.” They can try these careers on through these environments where they learn about all the different jobs in these industries. And they learn about the salaries, the job descriptions, it’s geolocation based play. So those that play the games actually learn about the companies like the ones that are listening to this call right now, they learn about your companies that are within those industries that are right around them. They learn about the jobs that you have and the pay. So now when it comes to recruiting, if you have one of these in your area or just different technology that you might use, that is mobile based with geolocation features from our games, you can actually recruit from the game.

So now when you think about, well, we need someone in this industry and we’re going to just put the ad out there to everybody in market to everybody. Well, now you can go to this vetted audience that’s been in your industry has experienced it, has shown some interest. So when you recruit them now and you get them into your company from this game, play, the chances of turnover significantly is reduced because they’re already aware of the environments and the types of jobs. Now it’s just that last checkbox of your culture at your company and playing it out in the real world in those careers. Is this something that they would like to be involved in? But less chance of turnover for sure.

William Tincup: 08:20 So let me start with, I have a real disdain for software categories. However, HR budgets, TA budgets are built in Excel. So there’s a column in a row. What do people generally put you under? In terms of when they’re budgeting? How do they typically classify you?

Tina Zwolinski: 08:50 Well, this would be a workforce initiative for recruitment.

William Tincup: 08:53 Okay.

Tina Zwolinski: 08:54 I want to challenge the listeners today that it’s really in this world that we’re in now… It’s a time to think differently about workforce development and recruitment. And in the past, there’s been a lot of silos with recruitment. You focus on your company, your exact needs. If you look about around the companies in your state that are in the same industry that you are competing against, yes, for talent, there is a true opportunity. If you come together on a workforce initiative that creates awareness for your jobs, for your industry in the state, that awareness helps you all so that everybody in your industry can now pull from a vetted pool with a larger scope of applicants.

So versus your budget and your company being able to go after the few and then having turnover, imagine what that same budget combined with 10 other companies that yes, maybe competitors for those jobs, but now you reach more. And so there’s a greater pool and you’re not competing over a dollar raise. You begin competing over your culture, which will then be on you to really make sure is in check. But I would challenge your listeners to think differently about removing silos and really working together for the sake of the success of that industry.

William Tincup: 10:23 Well, yeah. As you said, at the very beginning, it’s a workforce pipeline and you can do it yourself of course. But if you band together with eight other companies, you’re just going to get there faster and you know, if that talent’s going to be split, you’re just going to get… It’s one plus one equals three. Right?

Tina Zwolinski: 10:41 Right.

William Tincup: 10:43 So I love that. That’s fantastic. Let’s go back to the games, the games part, because I want to get back to mobile and mobile first because you did a really good job of actually, “This is where they’re at. So if you want this talent…” Okay. Emailing them or using LinkedIn or whatever not as much. You want to go where they’re at and you want to give them something that’s interesting to them to then understand about a role, a job, whatever the bid is. So take us into more of the games. I think you said you had nine different industries?

Tina Zwolinski: 11:24 Yeah. We have nine. And so, I’m going to back up just a little bit to what you spoke on too.

William Tincup: 11:29 Sure.

Tina Zwolinski: 11:30 And just thinking about… Currently there’s websites, you can search for jobs on the internet and there’s videos we can learn a little bit about the company. The challenge with that is first, you have to get people to go there and find out about it. And then once they do a lot of times, there’s not a re-occurring engagement. So it’s one and done and you kind of lost that engagement with that, building relationship with that company. And so when you think about gaming, it becomes this two-way relationship and it becomes a digital mentor role if you can imagine that. So I’m going to use our cybersecurity game, this is launching in California for one of our first deployments.

We launched in 2020 and it became where we knew the challenges that were with workforce and the challenges that were with Gen Z. So in our cyber game, just like our other models, you go into different environments. So you might be in the cyber headquarters, or you might be in a bank or in what we call Doodle, which is Google in the technology world. And so you actually get served real world scenarios of this is what’s happening and you are the hero and you have to go in and play this role and stop this attack from happening. But as you play, you learn about, in this world, you get this… There’s this many types of jobs. And so they get to figure out that, “Oh, I like this type of ethical hacking where I get to be on the preventative side.” Or I like something that’s more in a test mode.

And so, in those games, the players get to be served up around them. So that might be your company to someone that’s listening, “Hey, right around you, is this company. And that task, you just did. This company has those types of jobs.” And that company is able to place in the game, an actual video, if they wanted to have something that described it at the end of a level or a link over to like, “If you like this, we have this opportunity right now. So come over here and let us get connected to you to find out more about this job.”

So as they’re playing in these worlds, they actually get the opportunity to jump out of the in-game world and out into the real world to find out more about what they’re liking in the play, to what they could actually do in the real world. So that part is really exciting, whether it’s aerospace or life science is one that we’re doing right now, where the youth get to actually experience what it’s like in the lab. And also what it’s like in distribution and logistics, temperature controls, accuracy, building soft skills of how to work with others to show up on time. Just those things that really help them be better at their careers. But it really is that try on a job and learn more about what’s available out there for your interest.

William Tincup: 14:46 It’s interesting, because I’ve seen this done but differently. I’ve simulations. So there’s a couple plays that do kind of simulations of call centers, simulations of the job. And Marriott actually famously years ago did one for food servers and it was a cool game because you basically… Before you applied you played the game and if you saw yourself in that role, then you applied and it was super easy. But what I love about what y’all are doing is okay, there’s a simulation which kind of gets you into the job or at least tertiary it’s not the whole job. It just kind of gets you at least a little understanding, but then you’re doing another thing that I don’t see being done elsewhere is you’re showing them the mini career paths and what’s available. And potentially even comp or career paths and things like that. That’s that stuff is voodoo and it has been voodoo for everyone from all generations.

Tina Zwolinski: 15:52 Yeah.

William Tincup: 15:54 So the fact that you’re unpacking it and not making it voodoo and at the same time of layering in a game, a simulation so that you show people a little bit about the job and then what’s available with that job. I think it’s beautiful.

Tina Zwolinski: 16:08 Well, thank you. Yes, William, there are games out there. Like McDonald’s had one that actually did the same thing, training, timing, and then it went viral because it was just fun and people wanted to see how quickly they could do something. So there’s a lot of great ways through gaming and interactivity. In fact, we’re going to see gaming come… For everyone listening, it’s going to be in the workforce because the generations they want rewards, they want badges, they like that. So even in our workforces and our companies, you’re going to start seeing gamification of different things throughout your day that happen even Zoom’s going to be having some more of that and immersive experiences. Our workouts are going that way.

So the world is really moving towards gamification. The differentiator that we had seen and why we jumped from our branding and marketing agency that was successful for 25 years to do this was my… I have an adoptive son who English is his second language came to the US at 13. We knew these systems. We were a part of the marketing and branding for these systems for workforce, for talent acquisition, different manufacturers. When it came to navigating my son’s pathway, because he was going to go in a non-traditional technical right into manufacturing, which is a tremendous pathway that has stigmas, but you can make $50,000 a year starting.

But it was when we navigated it with him, that I pulled the plug and was like, “That’s it?” Because if he can’t navigate this and I’m in this world, how do these other students that don’t have a champion or that can point them immediately to that. So that differentiator had to be geolocation, directional connection. So what is that certificate? What is the two year technical college? And if you are meant to go onto four year, where is the right school in your state or region for that pathway?

It had to be that because that’s where we were losing, the drop off was happening, where it might be an interest, but they weren’t sure how to get there to what you said. And so that connectivity into those careers is really that differentiator from what’s out there to what we’re doing is a high level of awareness, not specific skill development. Yes. They’re skills that you’re learning that happen, but it is awareness to all within those industries. And then most importantly, now that you like it let’s connect you to it, to the companies, to the education pathway.

William Tincup: 18:49 So two questions left. One is who’s the buyer? Who do you actually sell to? Can you give us some personas of folks that you sell to? And the second part is your favorite part of the demo. What do you love showing people about skillsgapp?

Tina Zwolinski: 19:07 Okay. So for our main audience it’s industry, so it would be aerospace companies.

William Tincup: 19:15 Right.

Tina Zwolinski: 19:15 Or life science industry. And that reason is your listeners know the pain of having to fill those positions and what it takes.

William Tincup: 19:24 Right.

Tina Zwolinski: 19:24 And so they get it and they’re also… Their companies are the innovators. And so they could become early adopters in disrupting workforce development, that there is a little challenge of workforce development has been the same for 25 years, the same tools, the same tactics. So in some conversations, when you talk about technology and gaming, you get stares of…

William Tincup: 19:51 [inaudible 00:19:51]. Totally understand.

Tina Zwolinski: 19:52 Super play. But so it’s really that challenge of let’s think differently because what’s currently being used is not working anymore. And it’s going to be even more of a challenge as this generation enters the workforce even more.

William Tincup: 20:05 Right.

Tina Zwolinski: 20:05 So that’s one thing for that I would say, and then…

William Tincup: 20:12 Industry associations or?

Tina Zwolinski: 20:13 Industry associations. So that’s where they can sort of pull together. So like for one area, we might have a life science organization where there’s large life science companies and then their suppliers or smaller ones so that they could kind of pool some funds together to help with the customization that we do for the locations we have to put in all the addresses, the pathways.

William Tincup: 20:37 Right.

Tina Zwolinski: 20:38 For that state and region. So that’s really a sweet spot. So if someone was listening and they’re at a company and to what we talked about earlier about coming together, having a conversation with other industry leaders within their industry of what can we do together that is different, but the risks… There’s walls in place to prevent risk of investment and I think that’s the great spot. The other areas would be for industry to even talk with states about some of the workforce budgets that exist to say, “You know, this really is the state’s benefit when the workforce is in place.” Because you’re recruiting new companies. And so you have this data to show, look what we’re doing within these industries to build out a workforce pipeline for companies. So if you’re going to choose between our state or this other state come here, because we’re actively working for seven years out to make sure your pipeline is in place to recruit from.

William Tincup: 21:38 I can see even small or municipal kind EDCs, because I’m like North Texas, there’s this old town called Frisco. And they’re kind of spent a lot of money with medical device companies to recruit them.

Tina Zwolinski: 21:54 Yes.

William Tincup: 21:56 So kind of a nice little medical device, technology community. I could see something like that for them. If they have that, if a municipality or city has something like that and they’re focused like that, I could see them caring about it as well.

Tina Zwolinski: 22:12 Yes, William, that is true. That’s where it starts, it has to be people coming together.

William Tincup: 22:16 Right.

Tina Zwolinski: 22:17 And then they all benefit from it.

William Tincup: 22:20 Favorite part of the demo? When you get to show skillsgapp for the first time to somebody that’s never seen it. What’s your favorite part?

Tina Zwolinski: 22:28 I want to share two sides to that question. So I’m going to share… Like for me, I do the partnership like selling and looking where the opportunities are to help locations and industries do well. So when I present it and there’s quiet, pause for a moment and then someone is like, “You cracked it. Wow. This has been needed.” So those responses keep me going when you have some calls where there’s stares of like, “What?”

William Tincup: 22:58 Blankface face.

Tina Zwolinski: 22:58 Blankface.

William Tincup: 22:58 Yeah.

Tina Zwolinski: 22:58 But the ones that are like, “Wow.” Several times, wow is that one word that I love to hear and then this cracks, that connection between how to get them into the career. So that’s been really fun. But the reason we really started was our mission is to connect youth to life changing careers, through game changing play. It started with rural areas and with my son that I shared with you, the underserved that were challenged. And so, when we do focus groups to test the play before we launch in the areas and we get to watch the kids play and hear the feedback and you’re like… When you hear, “I can make that much? I can make $83,000? Like right out of high school? With a certificate?” And you get to hear that. Like, “I didn’t even know.” Like those… It’s like that’s the win, that for me is better than any comment anywhere. But I still do like the, “Yes. We want to sign a contract. Let’s get this done.”

William Tincup: 23:59 Oh, yeah. “How fast can we get started?”

Tina Zwolinski: 24:01 That’s my favorite.

William Tincup: 24:02 “How fast can we stand this up?” “Ah, great question. Let’s see.” Tina, this has been fantastic. Thank you so much for carving out time for us and the audience.

Tina Zwolinski: 24:12 Yeah. Thank you for what you’re doing. That, that connection between recruitment and technology is the current and the future. So I love hearing that the topics that you have around this.

William Tincup: 24:23 Thank you so much. And thanks for everyone listening to the Use Case Podcast until next time.

Music: 24:29 You’ve been listening to RecruitingDaily, Use Case Podcast. Be sure to subscribe on your favorite platform and hit us up recruitingdaily.com.

The Use Case Podcast

Authors
William Tincup

William is the President & Editor-at-Large of RecruitingDaily. At the intersection of HR and technology, he’s a writer, speaker, advisor, consultant, investor, storyteller & teacher. He's been writing about HR and Recruiting related issues for longer than he cares to disclose. William serves on the Board of Advisors / Board of Directors for 20+ HR technology startups. William is a graduate of the University of Alabama at Birmingham with a BA in Art History. He also earned an MA in American Indian Studies from the University of Arizona and an MBA from Case Western Reserve University.


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