Wage stagnation isn’t just a Utah phenomenon, it’s a national 21st-Century problem. Despite a strong labor market, real wages have been stagnant for over 40 years.
But how does someone who didn’t grow up learning to be ambitious escape the low-wage cycle, and what can they do to develop a higher-paying career in the least amount of time?
As a way to keep up with shifting job titles and rapid movement toward workforce automation, WorkSumo founders Teki Koloa, CEO, and Zach Johnson, Chief of Product, have launched a new digital platform that offers low-wage earners a way to rapidly bridge the stagnant pay gap by going from laborer to skilled technician in months, not years.
“What makes us unique is we’ve created a jobs marketplace in the social enterprise realm to help people grow their careers. We take them from earning $10 to $12 per hour into a skilled trade where they make $18 an hour or more,” said Koloa.
WorkSumo is a new path to career development for people who might otherwise be unaware of how or where to land higher paying employment. With dreams of becoming the “Uber for jobs” after returning from an LDS mission in the Philippines, Johnson and Koloa came to realize many people lacked knowledge, a support system, or an awareness of how to work the system. “If you didn’t grow up built to be ambitious and succeed, many don’t have that outside influence,” said Koloa.
Among Johnson and Koloa’s first clients were two homeless men unable to break out of their low-wage cycle.
Using the WorkSumo app, Utah’s marginalized earners can now find same-day jobs or long-term work by communicating with a supervisor or an employer in one convenient place. Still in its first year of operation, WorkSumo has placed hundreds of people by working with local firms such as Smart Staffing and Diamond Rentals.
Each time someone works a shift using the WorkSumo app, they’re given an employer review. This information is used to connect them with career-advancing opportunities at trade schools such as the Plastic Injection Molding course offered at the Davis Applied Technology College (DATC) in Kaysville, Utah.
Johnson described the perfect WorkSumo candidate as marginally employed or someone making less than they could be. “No one wakes up wanting to be a plastic injection molder, but for workers stuck making $12 an hour, a 20% to 30% wage hike can be life-changing,” he said.
There is no special secret for a worker to increase their earnings, but there is a strategy, and that is to pursue ways to increase one’s skills and productivity. WorkSumo is committed to helping its users increase their skill sets. It has connected with trade schools across the Wasatch Front to help train Utahns with relevant skills. It is participating in Eric Schmidt’s American Dream Challenge to increase 10,000 Americans’ income by 10% by 2020.
“We put our workers first because we want to help them get where they want to be,” said Johnson.