In 2019, more than 7.2 million job openings in the U.S. could not be filled due to a growing skills gap in the workforce. According to the World Economic Forum, closing this gap by 2028 could boost global GDP by $11.5 trillion. Governments and corporations worldwide are looking for better solutions to meet labor market demands, and at the same time a growing global workforce seeks alternatives to the rising cost to attend a four-year university. One solution to close the skills gap is apprenticeship programs that match individuals with corporations and provide paid training and professional development opportunities.

Multiverse is taking on the skills gap with a unique spin on apprenticeships. The company supports a diverse and talented pool of future leaders, offering roles in business operations, software engineering, and data analytics for those looking to start a new career or to reskill. Multiverse matches those individuals with its roster of 300 companies — ranging from Sky and Facebook to WPP, and Morgan Stanley — for technical training, hands-on experience, and professional development. True to its mission, Multiverse works especially to close the skills gap for those most disproportionately affected by un- and underemployment. More than 50% of Multiverse's apprenticeship talent pool includes people of color, and 57% are women.

Earlier this year, I was delighted to lead GV's investment in Multiverse's Series B funding round, and recently discussed its expansion to the U.S. My colleague, GV Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Partner Candice Morgan joined me, alongside Multiverse's CEO Euan Blair and Vice President, General Manager of North America, Sophie Ruddock.

As Candice observes, major tech companies often follow the same hiring process, which leads to a lack of opportunity for those who didn't take the traditional four-year university path. "Over time, a playbook was created where the best universities and computer science programs essentially became a requirement for tech talent," she says. At Pinterest, Candice led an apprenticeship program for talented, diverse individuals who did not have four-year computer science degrees.

Apprenticeship programs offer considerable upside for employers. In 2016, for every $1 spent on apprenticeship, employers got an average of $1.47 back in increased productivity and more significant front-line innovation. "Employers are learning that these programs scale, this talent is bringing in a different set of skills, and this is a great way to diversify the talent pool," says Candice.

Euan sums up why companies are turning to the apprenticeship model. "It's our belief that university is broken as a one-size-fits-all model. Degrees are used for this proxy of ability in the workplace. And they are failing to level the playing field. Companies are turning to apprenticeships because of the need for digital transformation, which has become acute due to the pandemic, and they are desperate to reflect the communities they serve through their workforces," he explains. And the apprenticeship program has staying power: 87% of Multiverse apprentices stay with their employers long-term, and 50% are promoted within six months.

Sophie also highlighted inequities in the workplace and why we need more apprenticeship programs. "At the heart of it, if we want to get real about building a workplace that reflects a society we operate in, we need to get real about the fact that degrees only serve part of the population," says Sophie. "Two-thirds of Black Americans are screened out of jobs because they don't have a degree. And that number is close to 80% for Hispanic Americans. We're not doing something right if we continue to think advanced degrees are the metric for success."

The Multiverse team has expanded how we think about the ability to reach diverse talent, new corporate partners, and ultimately, alternate paths to rewarding careers. Euan concludes, "Our name was inspired by the idea that there are an infinite number of alternate universes, and anything is possible. People too often think there is one path to success, and we're trying to change that."