Challenge 4: Flux

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Flux is an online platform to connect coal miners who have lost their jobs (or who feel they are at-risk for losing their job) to jobs in solar energy. Flux provides a place for previous coal-related workers to find their equivalent solar job, train online, and connect to other users and potential employers; a simultaneous benefit goes to employers who can use Flux to outsource their training, also creating direct ties between Flux users and solar companies. The coal businesses are facing bankruptcy all over the nation, leaving many workers without jobs or the skills necessary to join new industries. With solar power growing as a sustainable alternative to coal, the logical and feasible transition would be to enter the sustainable energy business; Flux provides the place for this transition.

Research already supports the feasibility and even necessity of a platform like Flux. Harvard Business Review reports that researchers are already seeing the benefits of retraining coal workers for solar: with even the lowest skilled jobs, workers get living wages, and after retraining, workers would make even more in the solar industry than previously in coal (Source: https://hbr.org/2016/08/what-if-all-u-s-coal-workers-were-retrained-to-work-in-solar). There is already data and programs that can match coal industry positions with the closest equivalent solar position and salary, based on degrees, work experience, and skill sets, something that Flux will use as its preliminary step.

The incentives are numerous and strong: more money, more job security and job growth perspectives, free online training (funding by the Solar companies), short courses, and direct connection to employers.


Here’s what a user’s progress would look like:

1) First, they make an account and put in information about what part of the coal industry they work in. They will express whether they are interested or able to relocate in order to work in the solar industry (one of the problems expressed in articles that address this issue is that skills like coding are mobile with solar plants are largely in California. But high concentration of plants and jobs in California lowers the competitive price, which is not desirable for the companies https://backchannel.com/canary-in-the-code-mine-903884eca853#.o5x6x1nca. So coal miners can get retrained locally and
could stay in their home bases since more plants will undoubtedly start opening
away from the original centers, especially with such a rise in the desirability
of renewable energy sources).

2) The platform will then tell the user what matching solar position is best for them and for a comparable salary (typically 10% more according to the HBR article).

3) This position given to the user will dictate what training is necessary. The platform will show a bar of how many lessons this takes, where the landmarks of learning are, how long this should take and the suggested rate, and when the projected “graduation” date would be. The user will be given a timeline and lesson every day to complete online via videos and small tests of the material. The tests will result in badges and awards that will incentivize further learning and be displayed on their account profiles. Their progress will be tracked on their account homepage via this bar, getting closer and closer to the final certification.

4) There will be chatrooms of other users of the same solar interests and job perspectives where users can discuss their progress, ask questions, and connect with peers. Employers can reach out directly to the users if they see good progress and high success rates, and the users can also begin to connect with employers about potential positions.

5) The homepage, when the user has completed the lessons, will show different jobs in the area that user can now apply for, with this online certification of training.

6) Flux, at this point, can also give tips for interview preparation via video-chat with people already in the field or via the chatroom feature.

7) To maintain motivation, there will be a newsletter geared towards each user’s needs, interests, and goals (like Pinterest). Flux will send users weekly tasks, videos, extra quizzes, updates on the industry, and new info to keep users on track with their specific sola goals. The landmarks on the lessons bar and the badges earned from quizzes will incentivize learning, especially with the feature where employers can express interest directly to good learners.

Alternatively, Flux isn’t just for previous coal-related employees who are looking to retrain independently. It is also a learning platform where solar employers can send incoming employees to learn skills need for their new position; this potential for outsourced training gives Flux two modes of expanding the user base and helps with economic feasibility since employers can pay for the service.

Advertising should be simple as well. Success stories speak volumes. Users who have completed their training and gone on to be hired by solar employers will have their stories featured on the site. They can write reviews of the service and provide their feedback and knowledge, which can go back into making the platform better and also having more information regarding the training.

There are options for users that are matched with high-level solar careers too. Those who must go to a 4-year university for their equivalent solar job will be provided with pros and cons of different schools including prices, location, time needed to graduate, etc. The platform will also provide online study courses and connect users early on with potential employers so that they have concrete goals and possibilities. The user could also track and publish their progress on their online account, where employers could then go and see who they want to hire after graduation. Maybe the users could also have tasks online, like writing reviews for certain degree programs / outlining information learned, which could help build a pool of information for the platform (like Spotify’s playlist to suggested music algorithm that uses user playlists).

Flux considers Fogg’s model with ability, motivation, and triggers. The ability of the user is spun positively: it is simple, broken down into lessons for you, and made extremely accessible and easy to learn. The motivation is high as well: job security and perspectives, higher salary, badges for each quiz, direct contact possibilities with employers.

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