BRIDGING THE GAP: Andrew Yang, center, speaks with Melanie Friedrichs and Sean Lane during a Venture for America meeting at Brown University. The career-training program looks to eliminate the so-called skills gap some graduates and firms wrestle with.
PBN PHOTO/FRANK MULLIN
By Rebecca Keister PBN Staff Writer
It took Andrew Yang, a Brown University alumnus and self-starter, a while to get where he wanted.
Now he’s hoping to make the path to entrepreneurship a little smoother – and perhaps a little shorter – for the next generation of would-be business owners with Venture for America (VFA), a career-training program that he believes can help solve a so-called skills gap plaguing college graduates and would-be employers.
“Our long-term goal is to fix the economy,” Yang said. “We think our country has the talent and resources it needs. They’re just being very poorly allocated.”
Modeled after the Teach for America program, a national coalition of recent college graduates who commit two years to teach in struggling urban and rural public school systems, VFA awards fellowships, then trains and places young professionals in two-year positions with startups in economically struggling cities.
Its inaugural class of fellows, numbering 40, just finished a five-week business “boot camp” held on Brown’s campus.
The new professionals begin their positions this summer in Providence, Detroit, New Orleans, Cincinnati, Ohio, and Las Vegas.
“Right now, it’s much easier [for a college graduate] to apply to law school or work on Wall Street,” Yang said.
The idea could be classified as one of those “Why didn’t I think of that?” ventures and is one Yang, 37, wishes had been around when he graduated Brown in 1996 with a bachelor’s degree in economics and political science.
He went on to graduate from Columbia Law School in 1999 and to practice corporate law in banking mergers and acquisitions.
“As boring as it sounds it was even more boring [in practice]. The nature of [startups] was much more appealing to me. [There] you’re building and creating,” Yang said.