Marquette Wire

Student-run company to help construction firms find employees

Sarthak+Dabas%2C+a+graduate+student+in+the+College+of+Arts+%26+Sciences%2C+is+the+lead+data+scientist+for+ItusOne.+
Sarthak Dabas, a graduate student in the College of Arts & Sciences, is the lead data scientist for ItusOne.

Sarthak Dabas, a graduate student in the College of Arts & Sciences, is the lead data scientist for ItusOne.

Sarthak Dabas, a graduate student in the College of Arts & Sciences, is the lead data scientist for ItusOne.

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A company run by Marquette students could help construction firms and trade unions connect with high school students.

The company, ItusOne, was founded in September 2015 by Davis Marklin, a junior in the College of Engineering. ItusOne is planning to use a computer program to collect data from high school students and interpret which students would be the most promising candidates to enter skilled trade and manufacturing jobs. The company would then deliver the information on promising candidates to clients such as manufacturing and construction firms for a fee.

When ItusOne started, the company planned to work on wearable technology to help construction workers stay safe on the job. While the company shifted priority to developing the program, Marklin said he used connections he made working with construction companies to discover problems they were facing.

“We went to these companies and asked them, ‘What’s your biggest problem right now?’ and they said, ‘We can’t get enough people to go into skilled trades,’” Marklin said. “There’s high paying jobs in these trades, like being an electrician or carpenter, but they can’t get people from high school into them.”

Many of skilled trade employers are faced with an aging workforce going into retirement. However, employers are finding it difficult to find young workers to fill these positions. Marklin said this difficulty is the result of a stigma surrounding these jobs.

“The big thing is, when you’re in high school, everyone hears that they have to go to college and that’s how they’ll get ahead in life,” Marklin said. “Skilled trades and manufacturing jobs are also seen as dirty work. People think that if you fail out of high school or you’re at the bottom, that’s the kind of work you do.”

Sarthak Dabas, a graduate student in the College of Arts & Sciences, is the lead data scientist for ItusOne. Dabas is working on the algorithm that will be used in schools.

“The algorithm will basically spit out names of people who are interested in the industry,” Dabas said. “For example, it would give companies or unions the name of a student, their contact information and the probability of them going into each trade.”

Dabas said while the software is a long way from being used by companies, ItusOne could be beneficial to companies when they need help staffing a project. “If a company needs ten electricians for a project, they can look at our list of potential electricians and their probability of coming in, and the company could contact them.”

Marklin said moving away from working on wearable technology was a challenge for the company, but he felt that the new program would be better at addressing problems the industry is facing. He said the shift was made harder because ItusOne had already established customer commitments for the wearable tech.

“As we shifted gears, we unfortunately had to turn down those offers,” Marklin said. “As of now, we haven’t made any money, but I’d say we’re only a month or two off from that.”

The company held preliminary information discussions with a guidance counselor from Wauwatosa East High School. Marklin said they plan to get schools to work with them by contacting industrial arts or shop teachers. In these classes, students work on home repair and construction projects.

“A lot of shop teachers already worked in the field and are passionate about getting people into that career field,” Marklin said. “If the teachers buy into the program, it shouldn’t be too hard to get them to have their students take it.”

ItusOne received funds to start the company from the Marquette Enterprise Seed Fund, The Dorm Fund and The National Science Foundation’s Innovation Corps Program. Megan Carver, the associate director of the Kohler Center for Entrepreneurship, said ItusOne has also been working with the center since the company’s beginning.

“I’m extremely proud of the ItusOne team and their accomplishments thus far,” Carver said. “The team embodies the entrepreneurial spirit and demonstrate a true passion for building something great from nothing and they are willing to push themselves to achieve big goals.”

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