It’s widely agreed that the U.S. labor market continues to experience a massive skills gap in the workforce. This trend has the potential to significantly impact the U.S. economy. The Society for Human Resource Management found that 83 percent of human resource professionals have had difficulty recruiting suitable job candidates in the past 12 months, while 52 percent say the skills shortage has worsened in the past two years. Further, opportunity for key roles remain unequally distributed across the U.S. population, favoring those with affluent backgrounds.

Marcel Valenta is Head of Corporate Development of ASU Enterprise Partners.

While higher education should not be seen as a panacea to solve all of the U.S. workforce’s labor market issues, deep collaboration with innovative ed tech partners can help students develop 21st Century skills to help them succeed in a globally competitive labor market.

An increasingly important topic is how universities can partner with the private sector to close the gap and create a more skilled workforce in an ever-changing world. It is apparent that the required skills of the current and future workforce involve many facets including communication, problem solving, and critical thinking, along with the ability to be agile and possess a growth-oriented mindset.

Education technology has demonstrated the ability to create new ways to develop a more prepared workforce, regardless of where an individual attends college. For example, applied and project-based learning, which has historically been a manual and bespoke process available only to students in small, targeted business school programs, has increasingly become democratized and available to all students through platforms like Riipen.

Career exploration has morphed through new modalities such as virtual and digital simulated micro-internships, like InsideSherpa has created in finance, law and other professions. This makes it possible for anyone to understand what various companies and careers could be like and provide them access to employers seeking their talent, even if they cannot traditionally access it. Learners can enroll in internships from afar and still participate in real-world experiences.

Ed tech can help students assess their skills and find a career path through machine learning and predictive analytics. Companies like AstrumU are developing individualized pathways for students. These efforts match students with potential roles that may not relate to their major, but rather coincide with the experiences and skills a person has.

The ecosystem of education is evolving. There is a growing emphasis on “return on investment” for a degree and workforce training. This is intensified by the need for job preparation, becoming a more competitive employee and continued professional development. Deep partnerships between universities and ed tech startups are the future of creating a prepared workforce from university students.


Marcel Valenta is Head of Corporate Development of ASU Enterprise Partners. ASU ScaleU, a venture of ASU Enterprise Partners, assists the most promising early stage ed tech startups by developing opportunities to pilot ventures on a large, public research university platform, as well as investment capital and other services to support company growth. ASU ScaleU actively seeks and welcomes new partnerships. To learn more, visit