Laguna’s Cynthia Jenkins launches skillsgapp, a company to bridge the divide in workforce skills education

By Barbara McMurray

Could mobile gaming hold an answer to the dearth of the U.S.’s middle-skilled workforce?

Cynthia Jenkins of South Laguna thinks it does, and her new enterprise, skillsgapp, holds enormous potential to open up career opportunities for youth not on the four-year college degree track but who’ll need more than a high school diploma to earn a decent wage as they make their way. 

Manufacturers, technical schools, economic development agencies, and labor statisticians agree: the U.S. is facing a “middle-skills” workforce shortage – jobs require some training but not college diploma. To address these shortages and promote training and recruitment for middle-skills careers, Jenkins and Tina Zwolinski, partners in branding and marketing firm ZWO, have launched skillsgappTM. Skillsgapp is a company that develops entertaining, gamified mobile apps designed to address the shortage of advanced manufacturing talent. Its focus is on helping Generation Z – middle and high school students, especially those in rural areas – gain competencies required to participate in the massive skills-based U.S. jobs sector by playing games that earn them rewards that can lead to well-paying jobs. 

With the disappearance of traditional factory jobs, more than half of all available American jobs now require midlevel skills in areas like robotics, machining, fabricating, complex assembly, big data analytics, writing and understanding code, and other industry-specific credentials that are not taught in most high schools. But only 43 percent of the U.S. workforce is trained for those jobs.

Laguna's Cynthia closeup

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Photo by Anna Goddard

Cynthia P. Jenkins, Chief Marketing Officer, skillsgapp

Skillsgapp enters the market offering customized gaming apps and augmented reality training as well as a suite of products and services for skills training and re-skilling. Reaching these young gamers – and potential future workers – is part of the skillsgapp suite, which includes in-school toolkits and marketing campaigns that highlight the benefits of pursuing careers in skills-based industries. Skillsgapp tools are ideal for public sector agencies, state governments, schools, and economic development organizations looking to build and support a qualified workforce pipeline.

“Traditionally, public sector agencies and private industries have tried to address workforce shortages through various websites, events, and marketing campaigns highlighting manufacturing careers as viable options,” said Cynthia Jenkins, CMO and co-founder of skillsgapp. “They’ve often targeted high school seniors or recent high school graduates. We created skillsgapp in order to offer an innovative and technologically engaging lineup of products and services that begins with engaging middle-schoolers, all the way through high school and beyond. Virtual reality, mobile outreach, especially to rural populations, and interactive, gamified apps can deliver an engaging, skills-based curriculum, from soft skills to bankable hours toward certifications, that can grow with the student and address the unique needs of upcoming generations.”

Skillsgapp co-founder Tina Zwolinski noted, “Too often, parents, career counselors, and school curricula fail to consider a career in a skills-based industry like manufacturing a viable employment pathway. There’s a bias against careers outside of traditional, four-year degreed professional jobs. Through our work at ZWO in rebranding and reversing cultural stigmas for products and services within Generation Z and Baby Boomer markets, we are equipped to address the ‘plan B’ mindset associated with skills-based careers. Through skillsgapp, we can offer the tools to rebrand an entire career track regarding manufacturing and skill-centered careers. We are poised to work with state workforce agencies and other governmental and development entities to encourage skills-based careers in every region.”

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