Ever since the outbreak of Covid-19, the global job market has undergone tremendous change. Many employees were laid off as a result. Those who were lucky enough to keep their jobs had to adopt remote working style. Students and recent graduates seem to be very concerned and pessimistic about the current situation in the job market.
During our conversation, Areeb, the founder of Project ANT, offered lots of insights into how his venture will offer students some relief from this plight and how the vision for his startup aligns with the future trend of job market. Project ANT is a startup member of ICUBE’s incubator, and Areeb will be graduating from the summer Start Up program this August.
Can you tell me what your startup is about?
Areeb: Project ANT is a freelancing platform that takes long term interests in the upscaling and development of its users. Let’s first take a look at a typical user’s case of this platform. Imagine you are a second-year computer science student and you want to pursue your career as a data scientist. When you use Project ANT for the first time, you will see three things: Learning Path, Digital Portfolio and Project Match Maker. If a person uses learning path first, the system will ask the student what your long-term goal is, and let’s say you want to be a data scientist. Then, what the learning path will do is ask you to upload your resume. Based on the skills and experiences you have on your resume, the system will compare to the required skills for the data scientist job, and carve out a personalized path for the user to bridge the gap. It will recommend you take certain courses and participate in certain events which will help the student to establish the required and essential skills for that particular job.
Similarly, the second component is the digital portfolio which will display the skills you have acquired and the courses and events you have participated in in the past. While you are learning and working, the skills and experiences will automatically show up on your portfolio. They build your digital presence and make you more attractive to employers. Based on my research, 30 or more percent of the employers prefer students who have relevant experiences with online portfolio.
The third component is the project match maker. As you develop your skills and profile, you can use match maker to find and work with a real project from real companies and get paid for that work. The goal is to make money as you are building up your skills and professional experiences.
How did you come up with this idea?
Areeb: My program did not offer me co-op or internship opportunities, so I had to find them on my own. However, I had no previous working experience in Canada as I spent most of my life outside the country. This put me at a great disadvantage in comparison to other candidates. Similarly, while I was working on lots of useful projects in school, I acquired lots of practical skills. However, I couldn’t showcase those skills on my resume, and more importantly, no one could verify them. Based on those two points, the idea of building something that could translate both my working experiences and acquired skills onto my own profile began to emerge. Because I am primarily targeting the student market, and many of them do not have the essential skills or do not know where to find experiences, that’s how I came up with this platform which aims to help them develop themselves overtime.
What future trends do you see in the job market?
Areeb: If you look at the tech industry, most companies, google and amazon, have already given the statement that employees could work remotely based on employee’s preference. Those are front runners in the tech world, and sure the smaller companies will follow. Those who don’t change will be forced to innovate eventually. This will be the way how the labor market is going to shift.
At the end, I don’t want this just to be a tech platform, but I want to transform it into the way of how work is done in the future. Based on my own research, there will be a huge increase in the freelancing job market demand. By 2027, the majority of work could be conducted remotely. Based on my observation, many companies were hesitant about hiring remote workers, but now they are doing that. Eventually more and more people will be forced to innovate or come to this naturally through the current situation. Students will be the first new entrants to the new world where work is conducted entirely remotely, and contracts are in short terms. I want my platform to prepare them for the future work environment.