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Gladeo’s Regional Approach To Career & Workforce Development: An Interview with CEO Michelle Cho

At Gladeo, we’re dedicated to delivering the most effective and inclusive career navigation solutions.

Our mission is to empower educators and workforce developers with the modern, inclusive tools they need to engage and prepare learners for amazing careers! To find out how Gladeo is accomplishing its mission, I sat down with Gladeo Co-Founder and CEO Michelle Cho!

An Interview with Gladeo CEO Michelle Cho

Matt: You’ve been on the road a lot lately! Can you share details about the events you’ve attended recently and some highlights of the presentations and talks you’ve been involved with?

Michelle: Of course! One of the biggest events we just went to was the Department of Education’s Future Finder Challenge “Demo Day” in Washington D.C. Gladeo is one of the top five finalists of US DOE’s $1 million career navigation for adult learners challenge. Our presentation was on September 21. It went very well, we made a ton of new connections, and now we’re eagerly awaiting the results which should be announced this fall.

Just before that, we attended the Inspiring Innovation, Community College Governance for the Future event in Fort Worth, Texas. Our presentation was titled “Building a Future-Ready Workforce: Gladeo’s Human-Centered Approach to Career Navigation.”

And we were recently invited to join the California Economic Summit’s Education & Workforce Panel which will be held at Indian Wells on October 12th.

Matt: That’s the summit hosted by California Forward?

Michelle: Yes, California Forward, operating in partnership with the California Stewardship Network. During the panel, we’ll be discussing how our regional approach is specifically designed to enhance collaboration between K-12 school districts, higher ed institutions, and workforce organizations that operate within the same geographic regions.

Matt: Your regional approach aligns with aspects of California Governor Newsom’s newly issued executive order regarding the creation of a master plan for career education, does it not?

Michelle: Yes, the timing is perfect. Governor Newsom’s order directs leaders in education, labor, and economic development to work together more effectively.

The way California Competes explains it, they have to “break down silos within and across state agencies” and “translate investments in career pathways into tangible outcomes.” So that matches up exactly with the work that Gladeo has been doing.

Matt: How does Gladeo’s work align with California’s Executive Order N-11-23? Can you give some examples?

Michelle: California Competes cited three primary objectives of the order: to “strengthen career pathways,” “prioritize hands-on learning and real-life skills,” and “streamline benefits access and reduce college costs.”

Gladeo’s work touches on all of these!

For starters, we build comprehensive, regionally-customized platforms where we can bring whole regional workforce ecosystems into one place.

Doing it that way strengthens career pathways by fostering better, faster collaboration among all the stakeholders. We build a nexus that brings together K-12 schools, community colleges, universities, and employers/workforce developers who are in relatively close proximity to each other. Our approach is breaking down those silos!

Secondly, we prioritize real-life skills learning through a variety of means. On each career profile, we highlight both the soft “people” skills and the hard technical skills students should possess to excel in a particular career. We also feature short videos explaining what the most common skills actually mean, because sometimes just naming a skill doesn’t convey much meaning to a student, and how to build that skill.

So Gladeo connects the dots of the ecosystem…and then we take it to the next level, with our e-curriculum and platform content that covers all phases of the career development continuum—self-awareness, career awareness, career exploration, and career preparation.

As for hands-on learning, right now we've been talking with to see how we can integrate their amazing hands-on learning tools—especially their STEMFolio. If you’re not familiar with them, CAST’s innovative Universal Design for Learning framework is to improve and optimize teaching and learning for all people based on scientific insights into how humans learn. We’re also working on tools to support refugees, re-entry populations, and military veterans.

Third among the primary objectives that California Competes lists is to “streamline benefits access and reduce college costs.” Gladeo absolutely reduces college costs! Our K-12 program empowers students with the resources to identify career pathways they’re both interested in and have an aptitude for. Then we lay out a roadmap for them to reach point A to point B, whether that’s signing up for an apprenticeship, an IT credential, a vocational school, or a college program.

We’re saving them time and money so they aren’t just taking random classes without a plan in mind. We even show them local opportunities for dual enrollment courses and programs where they can potentially knock out credits faster. In short, Gladeo gets them focused from the get-go!

Matt: What are some other tangible benefits of Gladeo’s regional approach?

Michelle: The content we provide on our regional career navigation platforms is customized to our partner’s local area. For example, Gladeo LA, which we launched in partnership with the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation.

By being tailored to a specific region, the content is much more relevant and applicable to users. It’s not generic; there’s more value for students, educators, workforce agency teams, and other stakeholders than what they’d get from generalized sites such as the Bureau of Labor Statistics, O*Net, and others. Not that those sites are bad, but they’re sort of like data pools. The raw information they provide isn’t very compelling and is only the tip of the iceberg.

Matt: So what can someone using a Gladeo regional platform expect to see?

Michelle: Our multimedia platforms are carefully designed to be engaging and appealing so users actually want to spend time on them. We utilized leading-edge career development research to craft our tools with clear intentions, to ensure that people from all walks of life, all backgrounds, can easily relate to our content!

We believe people are inspired by those they can relate to, so that’s at the heart of our approach. Take our career videos—we strive to interview a diverse array of professionals willing to share their success stories in the hopes of inspiring others in the region. As we like to say, “Not All Role Models Are the Same.”

Our “Gladeo on the Go” series spotlights successful businesswomen, people of color, first-generation college-goers, former foster youth, persons with disabilities, you name it!

One of my favorite spotlight videos is on our Gladeo Bay Area site. It features Aileen Ngo, a vet tech and Foothill College alum. Her story as a first generation college student, child of refugee immigrants, is so inspiring and you can see the passion she has for her career and also the gratitude she has for her professors. Once watching this video, students can explore our comprehensive Vet Tech career profile to learn more facts, educational routes to consider in their region, and even tips for landing the job.

Beyond landing the job, we offer insights on how to advance to the next level in a career path, with a helpful visual roadmap provided for each career profile. Then there’s the “Find a Program” feature, which makes it convenient for users to find education and training programs in the area.

This regional approach is also what got us our latest partnership with the National Rural Education Association. We’ve partnered with them to make sure our tools and program resonate with and serve learners from rural communities. Right now we have a plan in the works to pilot with one school district, then expand throughout the country through our partnership with the NREA. I will be going to Chattanooga, TN to meet leaders at the NREA's conference this November. We are so passionate about making sure everybody, anywhere has access and opportunities to career pathways so we are excited about this partnership.

Matt: How did Gladeo come up with the regional platform concept?

Michelle: As you know, my sister Grace and I co-founded Gladeo together, and that’s been very beneficial as far as us having a shared vision. As we were transitioning from our previous careers working in Hollywood (hers was in finance and mine was related to film production), we traveled a lot together attending virtual career days and learning as much as we could about the most effective ways to help students prepare for modern careers.

We were so blessed to have met Jessica Ku Kim who was the Head of Workforce Development at the Los Angeles Economic Development Corporation. Jessica set us up with over 75 meetings with various stakeholders in the workforce development ecosystem (K-12 administrators, community colleges, professional associations, employers, local government agencies) so we could really dive in and immerse ourselves in how regional workforce ecosystems function.

That was an eye-opening experience, and afterward, Grace and I agreed the regional approach was the way forward. We knew we had to adjust Gladeo’s approach to be more regional-focused if we were going to provide the most effective solutions. So that’s what we did!

Matt: Wow, that’s amazing! So what do you think is Gladeo’s biggest challenge right now?

Michelle: It’s important to try and project what career pathways, what degree majors, what certifications, and what job skills will be the most in-demand…or which may carry less value…in the years to come.

With technology such as AI evolving so rapidly, it is a challenge to keep up. AI is disrupting dozens of career fields! So we’re keenly focused on ensuring our platform is both inclusive and future-ready. That’s why we update our content regularly to make sure users can access up-to-date information.

We post and share free AI-related content such as How To Use AI For Career Readiness & Development. And we partner with professional associations and AI thought partners to create videos and short courses, such as our most recent ones: “The Importance Of Developing Skills And Engaging in Lifelong Learning,” “AI and Its Effect on the Working World,” and “How To Use AI For Career Readiness & Development.”

We’re making sure students will be FutureReady in order to be CareerReady!

Matt: How do you see education and career planning changing in the coming years, then?

Michelle: That actually ties into a piece we did called Preparing Students for Jobs That Don't Exist Yet. We’re seeing a shift in the skills that employers are looking for, and that’s affecting the preparation needed to enter those career fields.

Right now, I think students pursuing STEM careers should incorporate creative soft skills and people skills like teamwork and conflict resolution—and vice versa, non-STEM students need to add some tech skills to their toolkits.

Matt: Thanks for sharing your invaluable insights. Best of luck on the Future Finder Challenge and the many initiatives Gladeo is taking part in!

Michelle: Thank you, too; we’ll be sure to keep you posted!


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