Entrepreneur Behind Toronto Start-Up Recognized for Developing First-of-its Kind Career Coaching Mobile App to Help Refugees and Others
Innovative platform breaks down barriers facing under-skilled individuals, helps secure employment
A Toronto entrepreneur has found a way to help newcomers to Canada and other under-skilled individuals find meaningful, long-term employment in today’s challenging work environment where jobs are at risk due to advances in automation. Shifting the mindset of employment services from job matching to job readiness, Arash Samimi has developed a state-of-the-art, science-backed mobile career coach that works like a Fitbit for securing and sustaining long-term career opportunities.
This first-of-its-kind innovation called the Livelihood Project has earned Samimi a prestigious award by Mitacs, a national, not-for-profit organization that partners companies, government and academia to promote Canadian research and training. In recognition of the ongoing success of the start-up and its efforts to address an important social issue, Samimi who obtained his PhD in Applied Physics from Queen’s University in Kingston and works closely with his mentor, business partner and start-up visionary, Parin Kothari will be presented the Mitacs Social Entrepreneur Award on June 8 at a ceremony in Toronto.
“Our goal is to help low-skilled and socially disadvantaged individuals, including refugees, build long-term careers that will be resilient to changes in the economy,” said Samimi about the Livelihood Project, a not-for-profit organization in Toronto. “The comprehensive career coaching program we’re developing blends state-of-the art digital technology with proven behavioural science to ensure these individuals are equipped with the skills and support they need to adapt to and succeed in the changing work environment,” he said, noting that jobs in the service, delivery, transport and administrative industries are at risk of being displaced due to automation and artificial intelligence.
The unique coaching program from the Livelihood Project is the first to tackle the problem from the mindset of applying technology to ensure people are job ready, and then supporting them after they are hired to ensure job retention.
Since launching in the fall of 2016, the Livelihood Project has hired a diverse group of newcomers from Syria, Ethiopia, Somalia and Sudan to assist in pilot testing and ongoing development of the career coaching platform. The technology is expected to be launched full-scale in 2019.
The company’s novel approach has three core components: a mobile app that applies artificial intelligence to assess an individual’s skills, create a personalized career map, and then coach and support job seekers as they progress on their career journey; social programs and environments (including a café the organization runs) that reinforce soft skills such as leadership, communication and teamwork; and hands-on workshops designed to teach skills such as social intelligence and cross-cultural competency, necessary to adapt with the new changes in economy.
The technology further provides a set of key metrics to evaluate the program’s impact and deliver important statistics that are currently lacking in Canada’s employment service sector, Samimi said.
“Current employment services measure success by how many people register with their services and how many matches they make,” he explained. “One of the key challenges for the employment services is to measure their impact based on a set of concrete and actionable metrics such as employment retention, which is nearly impossible without having a digital and data-driven technology.”
“Our mobile career coach will continue to engage with job seekers even after they’re hired, help them retain that job and collecting valuable, measurable data in return,” Samimi said.
“As a physicist, I’m always interested in new models and processes that can solve fundamental problems. With the rapid socio-economic changes that are influencing people’s livelihoods, the most fundamental challenge that drives me is how we can have an inclusive economy that works for all of us,” Samimi said. “Right now, employment services are mechanical, slow, resume-based and focused on rigid job matching. The technology we’re developing is truly disruptive and at the end of day, could form the basis of a system-wide change in the employment sector.”
Samimi is one of five winners of the Entrepreneur Award, presented by Mitacs (www.mitacs.ca), who were evaluated according to their ability to demonstrate sound business planning, entrepreneurial spirit, and a commitment to continued excellence in innovation. “Mitacs is building on Canada’s strengthened commitment to technology and innovation by continuing to support up-and-coming entrepreneurs,” said Alejandro Adem, Mitacs CEO and Scientific Director. “Mitacs’ programs equip researchers with the career skills they need to successfully transfer breakthrough technologies, community and educational improvements, and environmental solutions from the lab to the business world.”