Restoring Opportunity for Workers Displaced by COVID-19

Noorjit Sidhu
3 min readApr 24, 2020

Over the past few weeks, more than 22 million Americans have filed for unemployment.

That’s roughly the same size as the number of jobs that have been created over the past decade. Current real unemployment rate is estimated to be around 18%, and may well worsen over the coming months. Amid all this upending of stability and livelihoods, we can find a silver lining (if we really squint) in startups who are launching products and initiatives to help restore some opportunity. A few trends and exemplars:

Hiring Displaced Workers

As mass layoffs have occurred, several startups have scaled up or launched entirely new capabilities to help quickly reemploy these workers.

Censia’s ReadyToHire allows enterprises to add their laid off workers to a database that leverages AI to match them with enterprises who are currently hiring. Job seekers may also add themselves to be matched, and receive a resource kit focused on optimizing their hireability.

Drafted’s Layoff Network takes a network-centered approach to solving this problem, allowing nominated candidates to find jobs, and recruiters to see nominated candidates within their network.

Silver Lining equips job seekers with a board of still-hiring companies, and conversely allows companies who are still hiring to socialize through Silver Lining’s network. has launched Hospitality Link and Gather For, platforms which focus on opportunities for displaced hospitality workers, and allows communities to form job boards for local openings, respectively.

Displacement as Time for Learning

Displacement is also being salvaged through companies who are meeting current exigencies with up- and re-skilling programs.

LearnIn provides up-skilling as a benefit for employers, allowing them to replace layoffs with learning sabbaticals in circumstances like these. Drawing on models that have previously been utilized by Toyota, Salesforce, and others, LearnIn offers a platform that can mitigate the inefficiencies of layoffs in headwinds and rehiring during tailwinds.

NextStep trains and certifies health professionals to be COVID-ready, up-skilling these workers with the abilities to maximize their labor potential in this new normal.

Foundry College teaches workers soft skills that are automation-proof, and has expanded access to its online learning platform during this pandemic to facilitate synchronous (live, face-to-face) learning for other education providers as well.

Reengaging Displaced Interns

As Summer internship offers have abruptly dissipated, some startups are trying to retrieve opportunities for students through remote programs.

Symba allows companies to develop remote internship programs, and conversely allows students to sign up as remote internship candidates.

InsideSherpa creates Virtual Experience Programs, namely virtual internships that are meant to simulate full-time work at leading companies, who help craft and endorse InsideSherpa’s programs. While these programs are unpaid, given individuals aren’t directly working for those companies, they help individuals who may find it too late to apply for new remote opportunities.

Early-stage startups are finding creative ways to restore some of the massively lost opportunities for displaced workers. As our labor market progresses into the depths of this pandemic, our ability to build and iterate tech and networks like these may meaningfully save livelihoods. To that end, it would be great to hear about any other products and initiatives that are launched or being worked on (