When Peter Whitehead was in high school trying to figure out what he wanted to do, the options seemed limited.
Lawyer, doctor, accountant, banker — these were jobs he knew offered good money and were held in high esteem by society. What he didn’t know was how deep the ocean of available career paths was and how many of West Michigan’s major employers fell into categories outside of those immediately known professions. So, he went about finding a way to bridge that knowledge gap.
Along with his business partner, Sai Naik, Whitehead is the co-founder of Mavin Global Company in Cascade, with the intention of making the student-to-business transition a smoother handoff. Whitehead and Naik felt, through their own experiences, the transition could be made less painful if, at an early age, students were better informed about the opportunities available.
“Students were going through high school with very little information as to what jobs are available geographically and how can they study and learn on a broader level to be successful,” Whitehead said. “There’s a lot of data and information out there that could be shared in a much more efficient way.”
So, the duo developed a software platform, Mavin Education, as a solution. The platform works like a social network, connecting students to science, technology, engineering and math-learning opportunities and future STEM-employment via Tyros — short mobile videos, quizzes and alerts that help the students understand how the concepts and ideas taught are valuable in the real world.
Additionally, Mavin connects the students with local companies that have signed on to share information about entry-level positions that will need filling within the next few years. By supplying this information, students can begin to see the number of options available to them when their education is finished. Additionally, the companies have helped prepare a much stronger and more experienced workforce.
“This is the kind of thing where our business community can step up and show a deep level of concern and assistance for building a network like this,” Whitehead said, “which, ultimately, benefits the users in the end but includes everyone in economic opportunity.”
The duo has been working with Northview Public Schools Superintendent Scott Korpak and Northview High School Principal Mark Thomas to make the district the first one to use Mavin Education.
The pilot program is free to students and will be available to every student during normal school hours. The program will be ready to launch this fall.
“We’re giving Northview the tools,” Whitehead said. “But the question will be how much there will be for them to do.”
Mavin is not charging Northview for the pilot project, but if the pilot is successful and the program expanded to include other schools, Whitehead said the expectation is to charge a monthly fee to cover the cloud-hosting fees.
Though the platform is complete and ready to deploy, Whitehead and Naik have been working to sign up more local companies to share their information. Amway Corp. is the first local company that agreed to share job data, and Mavin has the support of Kent Intermediate School District, West Michigan Works! and West Michigan Tech Talent.
Whitehead said conversations continue to secure more employers willing to share their data to help better prepare students for life after school. The focus is getting employers in evergreen fields, such as IT, manufacturing, health care and energy, to support the project and supply information about careers that will be there four to eight years from now.
“Short term, I think success would be if we could have five to 10 companies putting a handful of jobs into the system, so we’ve got Northview High School students being exposed to and having the opportunity to learn about as many as 30 to 40 jobs right now,” he said.