WES Mariam Assefa Fund Impact Investee Partners


Category: Skills and Supports; Experimentation and Innovation

Amount: USD$500,000 invested in November 2020

Cell-Ed, an early-stage mobile-first education technology company, is growing their work to build skills in adult learners, especially immigrants, so they can advance in the workplace and continue their education.

About Cell-Ed

Cell-Ed is an early-stage mobile-first education technology company that helps workers attain essential life and job skills more effectively. Founded in 2014 by Jessica Rothenberg-Aalami, Cell-Ed’s platform supports English language learning, sector-specific training, and the digital literacy needs of immigrant workers. Tens of thousands of adults currently use Cell-Ed’s platform, courses, and content to experience 84 percent faster skills gains. Learners access Cell-Ed through partner organizations that include education providers and employers in the United States and worldwide.

How do they create impact?

Since its inception, Cell-Ed has been an innovator in providing access to educational content to individuals in low-wage jobs. Originally created to serve Latinx immigrant women in California, Cell-Ed has developed a tool whose robust content enables learners to listen to lessons on a flip phone, from anywhere, at any time. Ninety percent of Cell-Ed’s current users are Black or Latinx, and the vast majority are also first- or second-generation immigrants. Cell-Ed takes a contextualized learning approach and seeks to meet learners where they are to optimize their learning. Even individuals who cannot afford data plans for their wireless service and have only text-based access are able to benefit from Cell-Ed’s upskilling platform, which is available 24/7 and provides real-time feedback.

Millions of adults can now easily access English language learning lessons, acquire new skills, and improve their digital literacy even if they aren’t able to participate in traditional in-person classes. Cell-Ed’s products improve workers’ employability and earning power now, while also helping them develop new skills to access future learning and career advancement opportunities.

Why did we invest?

The opportunity gap experienced by workers with low literacy or low educational attainment in low-wage jobs is daunting. As of 2018, 63 percent of all U.S. jobs required education beyond high school. Yet, nearly half of immigrants and refugees age 25 and older in the U.S. had only a high school education or less. Black and Latinx adults are substantially overrepresented in workers of lower educational attainment or literacy. Acquiring better English skills and developing digital literacy are two powerful steps workers can take to improve their earnings and economic prospects.

The Fund’s investment will enable Cell-Ed to expand the reach of its core mobile skill-building product, invest in its people, and launch new products and forge new partnerships that work to bridge the opportunity gap and position Cell-Ed learners to advance in high-growth sectors, such as health care.

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