Monday, May 20, 2024

Transforming career development through AI


The Transformational Tech series highlights Cisco’s grant recipients that use technology to help transform the lives of individuals and communities. This blog features Cisco’s partnership with CareerVillage.org, a nonprofit organization based in the United States that helps students get career advice online from real-world professionals. If you are interested in a deep dive on this partnership, please contact Kyle Thornton.


Every child deserves opportunities for success. But socioeconomic factors can play a huge role in children’s development that can disrupt their education and life progression. According to the American Community Survey, about 17% (more than 10 million) of all U.S. children under 18 live below the poverty line and are considered at-risk.

An essay from the Washington Center for Equitable Growth highlights that children from low-income families are more likely to start school with limited language skills, have less parental support with homework, and deal with more emotional and social problems that interfere with learning. CareerVillage.org is helping to change the systemic equation by democratizing access to career information and advice for underrepresented youth. This is done in part by crowdsourcing the answers to questions from students about careers that any online learner can access anytime, anywhere.

Having reached over 7 million individuals and mobilized more than 150,000 volunteers across 190 countries worldwide, CareerVillage.org aspires to be the universally trusted source for career information that youth can turn to, and a place where they find the encouragement they need to persist in the face of adversity. And with recent advancements in artificial intelligence (AI) technology, they are expanding their reach and accessibility with Coach, an AI-powered career prep platform that tailors advice to an individual student’s goals, learning from each interaction.

Jared Chung and Rebecca Gitomer of CareerVillage.org
Jared Chung, Founder and Executive Director and Rebecca Gitomer, Special Projects Senior Manager, CareerVillage.org

CareerVillage.org’s Founder and Executive Director Jared Chung and Special Projects Senior Manager Rebecca Gitomer share the non-profit’s technology evolution and how its partnership with Cisco has led to crucial, high-impact, replicable and scalable partnerships in the education industry.

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Cisco invests in nonprofits to increase their impact through replication and scale, how has this influenced CareerVillage.org’s strategy?

For us, scale is extremely important and always top of mind. Career development is a challenge that affects young people all over the world, and there is a real lack of investment and overall support, especially in underserved communities. Cisco has been aligned with our scalability mission from the beginning of our partnership in 2017, and what began as volunteer opportunities for Cisco employees to participate in has evolved into crucial funding from Cisco to help us unlock high-impact partnerships that have allowed us to scale across classrooms in the U.S.

An example of this is in 2020 when we piloted our first district partnership with the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) that was supported by the Cisco Foundation. This relationship remains today with educators and students across SFUSD schools still using CareerVillage.org in their classrooms. The empowerment Cisco provided us to begin our K12 district partnerships allowed for important learning lessons to replicate similar partnerships across the country. Our work testing with educators and students in classrooms and the learnings from these experiences have led to dramatic growth in educators using CareerVillage.org and helping them meet the needs of their districts. Since 2020 our educator reach has doubled.

What are some key areas Cisco is helping with to transform your technology?

There have been several improvements and enhancements to our technology, partnerships, and core team that have enabled this change, which would not have been possible without Cisco’s continued support for our mission. We see Cisco as a uniquely aligned partner in this work for a few reasons:

  • We prioritize scalable technology-based solutions that impact underserved populations.
  • We share ambitious global social impact goals.
  • We have visions to transform K12 education.

We also believe that the movement we’ve created is laying the foundation for a transformative nationwide college access and career readiness program and the Cisco Foundation has been fundamental to this work.

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Most recently Cisco funding has gone towards supporting our latest innovative technology the AI Career Coach. We’re incredibly grateful for supporters like Cisco who are early believers in our work with cutting edge technology, and thousands of Cisco employees have advised students through our platforms impacting millions of learners around the world.

What is Coach, who is it geared to, and how is it a differentiator for people that use it?

This is a natural next step for CareerVillage.org, which has reached over 7 million people over the past decade. For years we’ve been mobilizing huge online communities to give career advice, and now, we have this opportunity to use AI to scale up even further.

Our AI-powered career prep platform ‘Coach’ can help people practice mock interviews, improve their resumes, explore new career options, and much more. In short, Coach helps with everything you need to get career-ready and land a great job. Coach is knowledgeable, encouraging, and reliable, just like every career coach should be.

Currently in beta testing and ever-evolving, Coach is intended for everyone – middle schoolers all the way through career changers, and we’re ensuring that we’re getting a diversity of perspectives in user profiles to test Coach now to make it higher quality, eliminate bias, and more. Recent feedback from some of our beta testers includes:

“I will be using this platform in the future as I near college applications and need to submit essays and resumes. Not only was I challenging the AI, the AI was challenging me.” (Student Beta Tester)

“Out of the activities that I completed, my favorites were the career exploration activity and the mock interview. The responses were beyond incredible!” (Student Beta Tester)

“I would absolutely love to use it with my students. I would recommend it to my colleagues and friends as well!” (Educator Beta Tester)

“Everything is extremely tailored” (Educator Beta Tester)

“It helped me identify my passions, matched me with suitable careers, provides step by step plans to achieve my goals.” (Student Beta Tester)

“This activity definitely helped strengthen my skills and communication abilities!” (Student Beta Tester)

Free at the individual level, Coach will be a game changer when it comes to career supports, which as it currently stands is something that is systemically underinvested in. And our largest differentiator is the coalition of partners we have established backing Coach, helping to test, co-design, and integrate resources into the Coach database while ensuring responsible AI is at the forefront of development.

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What are the biggest benefits of incorporating AI for career development?

For most people, career guidance is a huge life-changer and, until now, we’ve never been able to put a world-class personal career coach in front of every underserved person. Our model is all about making resources more accessible, more personal, and more responsive. The personalization is a huge opportunity with AI and because career development is such an individual experience, this personalization is key, and AI allows us to do it at scale. In our current beta version, even from the first day of testing the feedback we were hearing was that the personalization was really shining through. Through AI we are also able to reduce silos by more easily aggregating sector resources, become more scalable and offer 24/7 accessibility, and be more cost effective.

How can people learn more about Coach and get involved with CareerVillage.org?

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