Education isn’t the only industry to see experimentation en masse with distance learning. Chris Hedrick hopes that his Seattle-based startup turns heads at a time of heightened demand for health care jobs—particularly, certified nursing assistants and caregivers—as the job market turns grim for service and hospitality workers.
“As the population ages, more and more people are going to be needed as skilled caregivers,” says Hedrick, 57. “It’s a job that can’t be automated away.”
The company, NextStep, has tested its brand of caregiver training delivered by mobile device in Colorado. It now claims to be the largest certified nursing assistants trainer in the state with 2,000 enrolled learners.
NextStep has its next expansion planned for California, where an anticipated demand for health care providers has spurred changes to existing rules. Earlier this month, the state’s Department of Public Health said certified nurse assistants may complete continuing education through online or distance learning formats during the outbreak. South Carolina’s Department of Health and Human Services issued a similar change.
To help its westward expansion, NextStep has raised $3.6 million on top of its previous seed rounds, bringing the company to a total of about $9 million raised to date. Springrock Ventures led the round. JAZZ Venture Partners, Learn Capital’s LearnStart fund and the managing directors of Pioneer Square Labs also participated.
Assuming the company grows as planned, NextStep will next pursue a Series A round, says Hedrick. Should that happen, it would support its plans to expand nationwide, says Hedrick.
Founded in 2018, NextStep works by recruiting prospective caregivers from other industries. It screens candidates with psychographic assessments, and those who fit receive training in certified skills via lessons on NextStep’s mobile app, along with peer, lab and clinical learning. The company offers face-to-face training in Colorado to comply with the state’s rule for 32 hours of in-person practice.
Students prove their mastery by demonstrating their skills through videos that are watched by registered nurse mentors. Once certified, nursing assistants and caregivers are matched with an employer in NextStep’s network of more than 200 health care partners, mostly senior living facilities and home health care providers. Job candidates must pass full background checks, drug tests and other required verifications.
Employers pay NextStep a fee for each role filled, and NextStep will replace an employee for free if he or she leaves within three months, Hedrick says. The company offers badges in over 140 skills, including ones related to caring for people with dementia, diabetes, severe mental illness and other conditions.
By focusing on lessons through smartphones and tablet computers, Hedrick hopes his company reaches low-income workers who might not own laptops. “The traditional adult education system is not affordable or nimble enough for the businesses hiring these folks,” he says.
Students can come back to learn additional skills for job promotions. The curriculum developers at NextStep are quick, Hendricks says, even putting together a coronavirus training certification in about three weeks.
Online job training for a variety of fields, not just health care, have captured investor attention lately. CreatorUp, which aims to equip aspiring creative professionals with the digital media skills they need to find work, raised $1 million last September. Kenzie Academy, which provides technology training and job placement programs for rural tech hubs, raised $7.77 million the same month.
Whether edtech investors continue to provide funds to job training startups after COVID-19, however, remains to be seen.