When Rakesh Naidu designed and launched the AyeWork employment app in early 2020, he wanted to help financially-strapped international students find access to gig work that fit around their irregular class schedules.
What he didn’t anticipate was creating a platform where job seekers of all kinds could find opportunities, from one-off gigs to full-time positions with six-figure salaries.
Naidu is president and CEO of the Windsor-Essex Regional Chamber of Commerce. Born and raised in India, he moved to Canada almost 20 years ago for a job in the auto industry, starting in Toronto before settling in Southwestern Ontario.
Active in the community through his work with the Chamber, Naidu increasingly found himself fielding pleas from a fast-growing group of international students. The common thread: they were struggling to make ends meet and couldn’t find part-time work. Day after day, more than a dozen people would contact him through social media or by text, asking if there was anything he could do to help.
Naidu also knew from working with local employers that many of them, especially small-to-medium sized enterprises, were often unable to find the employees they needed to fill vacant positions and grow their businesses.
To bridge that gap, Naidu started a spreadsheet designed to connect job-seeking students with eager employers, but it soon grew unwieldy. His answer was to create AyeWork, a free-to-use app that makes real-time matches between employers and job seekers whose skills and schedules fit the requirements of various posted roles.
“What this platform does is it takes the dynamic availability of any job seeker, takes their skill set, whatever experience they have, their education, whether they are willing to travel or not, all of that information, and then matches it with the dynamic needs of employers,” Naidu said. “If there’s a restaurant owner who says ‘I need five people to do this, they should have a Smart Serve Certification, and I need them between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m.’, it takes that and matches it with all the job seekers that can do it.
“This is something no other platform offers. Most other platforms have a more traditional way of hiring where you put in a job posting, ask people to apply, screen them, short-list them, call them for interviews, and so on. We’ve created probably the only platform that helps employers and job seekers connect in real time. We call it the on-demand, just-in-time recruitment platform. It really serves that purpose.”
AyeWork launched on January 17, 2020. Within the first six weeks around 1,200 job seekers signed up, four times as many as Naidu had expected. Almost one year in, more than 100 employers are utilizing the platform.
One of AyeWork’s success stories is Rohit Shelar, who spent six months looking for part-time work after arriving from India to study data analytics at Windsor’s St. Clair College. Frustrated by his fruitless search, Shelar created an AyeWork profile after learning about the platform at a campus presentation. He soon landed a part-time job as a computer technician with a local business called Computron.
When Shelar graduated in the early days of the pandemic, it wasn’t safe to make the rounds dropping off resumes at local employers. Instead, he updated his qualifications on AyeWork to reflect the skills he’d learned at St. Clair. With no more lessons to attend, he also changed his schedule to reflect his increased availability. Shelar had grown comfortable in Windsor and wanted to stay in the area so he further adjusted his profile, indicating a desire to accept only locally-based opportunities.
About two months after graduation, an employer contacted Shelar with an offer in his field.
“I got a call from YQG Technologies,” he said. “I interviewed virtually, no need to go anywhere, and then they hired me. It’s been around six months now.”
Naidu is working on multiple upgrades and additions for AyeWork, including functionality to protect workers and employers by verifying identities through government issued ID, and a feature that would let employers and job seekers use the platform to connect for brief video interviews.
He’d also like to add in-system training modules so job seekers could demonstrate competencies, learn new skills, or complete company-specific courses before starting a new job.
Overcoming growth challenges posed by the pandemic, AyeWork has forged partnerships across Ontario with employers, industry groups, educational institutions, school boards, and volunteer organizations. To illustrate the rapid growth of his pet project, Naidu cites a recent job post from the Windsor Port Authority, a full-time position with a six-figure annual salary.
“The reality is that this is not just for students, as much as the inspiration comes from them,” Naidu said. “We’ve opened it up for everyone, for part-time work, full-time work, gig work. We quickly realized this is something that is useful for everyone.”
The success AyeWork has enjoyed so far hasn’t changed Naidu’s vision of his app as a social enterprise that won’t charge job seekers a dime.
“What I really want to do is make this as easily available as possible to the young people that are struggling,” Naidu said. “How do we make that transition from education to the workforce cheaper and faster, and give them that work experience. That’s where my heart is.”