NextStep, a health care education and job placement company helping solve the caregiver crisis by retraining displaced workers to begin careers in the fast-growing health care sector, recently announced a $2.5 million investment from new funders ZOMA Capital and ETF@JFFlabs, along with existing investors Springrock Ventures and JAZZ Venture Partners. This new funding will help propel the company’s growth in Colorado, where NextStep already trains and places new certified nursing assistants (CNAs) at over 70 facilities of employer partners, and their expansion into other states.
“NextStep is leading the way in creating a new model for career education and advancement, enabling displaced workers to start pathways to quality careers in healthcare while meeting critical workforce gaps,” said Ben Walton, co-founder and principal of ZOMA Capital. “NextStep’s unique tuition-free certified nursing assistant training and job placement program broadens career growth opportunities for students and helps address the most pressing problem in long-term care. We’re delighted to support their work in our home state of Colorado and their growth nationally.”
“JFF’s mission of economic advancement for all involves accelerating innovative approaches to education and workforce development and expanding their impact,” said Joann Chen, director of ETF@JFFLabs. “NextStep is at the forefront of applying technology to health care learning, which has the potential to revolutionize the growth and diversification of the frontline health care workforce. This is an urgent need, and we’re thrilled to help NextStep get there.”
The aging U.S. population is increasing rapidly, causing health care jobs to grow at significantly faster rates than the broader economy. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, six of the ten fastest growing jobs in the United States are in the health care industry, where jobs such as certified nursing assistants (CNAs) are projected to grow 41 percent by 2026. A 2016 study from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, however, found that the supply of health care workers is expected to fall short of projected global hiring demand by more than 15 million workers.
At the same time, millions of U.S. workers have been displaced by artificial intelligence, automation and, now, the COVID-19 pandemic. Many of these people have already worked in fields, such as hospitality, using skills that are easily transferable to caregiving jobs in the health care sector.
“We are honored to have the support of new investors such as ZOMA Capital and JFF. ZOMA is enabling innovative progress for workers across Colorado, and JFF is helping drive change in the American workforce and education systems to promote economic advancement for all,” said Chris Hedrick, CEO of NextStep. “More than 40 percent of our graduates were unemployed before joining NextStep. This new support will help NextStep create more health care career opportunities in Colorado and beyond.”
NextStep’s training-to-placement model solves both the caregiving and unemployment crises with one elegant solution. The company reaches job seekers who have been left behind by traditional education models and provides them with convenient, blended-learning CNA training at no up-front cost. Graduates are then placed with NextStep’s respected employer partners, whose critical staffing shortages are relieved. Surveys of NextStep graduates document that, on average, their lifetime earnings are projected to be over half a million dollars more than if they hadn’t worked with NextStep to become CNAs.
“I’m proud that Colorado is taking the lead to create new and innovative pathways to ensure an expanded pool of new certified nursing assistants. We want these critical workers to receive education and training so they can provide care and support to Coloradans during this challenging time and in the future,” said Colorado Governor Jared Polis.
Prior to co-founding NextStep, Hedrick, a long-time entrepreneur, was previously CEO of venture-backed Intrepid Learning. He also served as science and technology advisor to Washington Governor Gary Locke; was Country Director of the Peace Corps in Senegal and coordinator of an Africa-wide malaria prevention initiative; was CEO of Kepler, a university program designed to expand educational opportunity in Rwanda; and served as the first employee at the Gates Library Foundation, the predecessor to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which was an outgrowth of Hedrick’s work managing corporate philanthropy programs at Microsoft. A graduate of Stanford, Hedrick was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University.