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From Campus to Career: Startups Bridging Higher Education and Workforce

By Solomon Elekwa

The demand for graduates with practical skills and real-world experience is higher than ever. Startups specialising in career readiness, job simulations, and virtual internships play a pivotal role in preparing students for the workforce by offering immersive learning experiences that bridge the gap between academic knowledge and practical application. These innovative platforms provide students with opportunities to engage in simulated work scenarios, gain hands-on experience, and develop the skills necessary to succeed in their chosen fields. By leveraging technology and industry partnerships, these startups are reshaping traditional education models and equipping graduates with the tools they need to thrive in a competitive job market. Let’s explore four standout startups leading the way in providing career readiness programs, job simulations, and virtual internships for graduates.

Forage – Job Simulations for Career Readiness

Forage (formerly InsideSherpa) is a career development platform based in San Francisco. Forage partners with leading companies to deliver free open-access training courses for candidates. Led by co-founder and CEO, Thomas Brunskill, Forage offers virtual work experience programs that allow students to undertake simulated tasks from top companies. This platform helps students gain insights into various industries and roles, providing them with a competitive edge in the job market.

Virtual Internships – Remote Work Experiences for Students and Graduates

Virtual Internships, headquartered in London, is revolutionising talent acquisition and career advancement by reshaping the landscape of entry-level employment and ongoing professional development, while simultaneously breaking down barriers to entry through virtual avenues. Led by Co-founder and CEO, Daniel Nivern, the company leverages the power of artificial intelligence to seamlessly pair students with internship opportunities across a spectrum of businesses, from burgeoning startups to established corporate entities, thus ensuring a global footprint. With a robust network boasting over 12,000 partner companies, Virtual Internships has demonstrated substantial revenue growth, underscoring its efficacy in providing invaluable hands-on experience to aspiring professionals on a global scale.

Paragon One – Virtually Connecting Learners with Industry Professionals

Paragon One is a New York-based virtual platform that expands access to experiential learning opportunities for students of all backgrounds. Founded by MIT alumni Matt Wilkerson and Byron Hsu, Paragon One turns company work projects into scalable, online learning experiences called Remote Externships. Remote externships give students a flexible way to get their first taste of what it is like to work in different industries, no matter where they live or study. For companies, remote externships serve as scalable, early talent identification and training programs that can reach more diverse, overlooked, and underserved student populations.

Riipen – Work-integrated Learning for Post-Secondary Students

Riipen, a Canadian-based experiential learning platform, is revolutionising the traditional educational model by bridging the gap between academia and industry. Spearheaded by co-founder and CEO Dana Stephenson, Riipen facilitates connections between educational institutions and businesses, empowering students with practical experience and fostering a seamless transition into the workforce. Through curated company competitions and assignments, students engage in real-world projects, gaining invaluable skills and industry exposure. This innovative approach not only enhances students’ employability but also provides companies with access to top talent, creating a win-win scenario for all stakeholders involved in the educational ecosystem.

These pioneering startups are reshaping the dynamic intersection between education and professional experience, offering students invaluable practical skills and hands-on experiences sought after by employers. Through immersive engagement in real-world projects and simulations, these platforms empower students to acquire the practical knowledge and experiences essential for thriving in the modern job market. By prioritising career readiness and enhancing employability, these initiatives bridge the gap between traditional education and the evolving demands of the workforce, ensuring students are well-equipped for success in their chosen careers.

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