Learn to Work vol. 14

Learn to Workers! Sorry it’s been a long lull since the last installment. Trumpageddon has kicked my ass back into action and I’ve got a lot of great content stored up so expect more to come in short order.

Anything you’ve seen recently worth sharing? As always if you know people who might be interested in these updates, have them add their email here.

We’re still looking for the next CEO of Kepler so keep the ideas coming! As some of you know, we got lucky with our last CEO search finding Michael Munson to lead Spire — thanks to all of you who helped with that search.

And for those of you in the holiday giving spirit, we just launched an Indiegogo campaign to raise scholarship funds for the emerging wave of next-generation K12 schools in Africa like Nova Pioneer.

Without further ado, here’s the latest sweep from the world of education-to-employment, where all the job seekers are above average…


Thought Piece 

If you haven’t already been reading a lot about artificial intelligence (esp the advent of AGI & ASI) this two part WaitButWhy piece – Part 1 and Part 2 – is a great though downright scary primer to read over the Thanksgiving holiday. Punchline argument: growing scientific consensus AGI/ASI just matter of decades; translation = humans probably immortal or extinct before 2100. Self-driving cars coming on faster than we expected? Ain’t no thang compared to what’s slouching toward Bethlehem to be born. And, um, if we’re still alive there might be some job market implications a tad bit bigger than the shifts we’ve seen to date that already helped turn Hillary country to Trump country.

Higher ed feeding inequality

  • Trumpageddon cast some light on how the east coast media and 1%ers and Democratic party elites are having trouble getting outside their bubble; so are many higher ed pundits who too often focus on elite solutions to elite problems (skip college! go be an entrepreneur or attend a coding bootcamp!).
  • The students who most desperately need the socioeconomic mobility college promises are getting it least. Authors created a ‘mobility ‘score for colleges — of the top-quartile colleges producing better outcomes, only 8.6% take an above-average number of Pell students, while 80% of the bottom-quartile colleges take above-average Pell %. (Interesting Trumpageddon-related factoid: <25% of Pell recipients are black or Hispanic. Pell recipients are 63% white).
  • Pieces in Hechinger Report (more stories & color) and the Atlantic (drier/more data) on just how severe the rich/poor gap is getting on college campuses
  • And it’s not just students from low-income families getting the shaft: >50% of students from middle class families don’t graduate

New Models 

Bootcamp World

  • In general, bootcampdom seems to be a tale of two cities right now …
  • Coding bootcamps, and maybe a couple other smaller technical categories, continuing to grow/thrive (see thoughtful general outlook on the subsector here).
  • Meanwhile, more generalist bootcamp-type programs have either been struggling (most visibly Fullbridge) or pivoting in search of a viable business model
  • Bootcamps as a whole — at least in the US — still skew heavily toward wealthier participants though with some moves in the right direction (e.g., Revature example above; EQUIP program to enable lower-income students to tap Federal aid  here and here; providers like Learning Guild in Oakland targeting lower-income students and offering income-sharing agreements)
  • Someone tried to run an analysis of bootcamp grads’ skillset vs college grads’
  • University Ventures suggests a 2×2 matrix to break down bootcamp business models

News from the Home Team

Learn to Work vol. 13

Here’s the latest sweep from the world of education-to-employment, where all the job seekers are above average …

Big thanks to Jake Weissbourd, Higher Education Specialist at Year Up Boston, and Mike Larsson, Chief Operating Officer and Co-Founder of Match Beyond, for guest-curating this edition of Learn to Work.

As always, please invite others to sign up here and join our Learn to Work LinkedIn group here!


Thought piece: I’ve asked Jake and Mike to tag-team this edition because their partnership is wicked awesome–one of the best things I’ve seen happen for students from low-income families in the Boston area who don’t have an easy path to a college degree and middle-class career. Year Up and Match Beyond have hooked up to get Year Up students & alumni enrolling in Match Beyond’s degree programs — combining Year Up’s expertise in placing low-income young adults into professional careers with Match Beyond’s pioneering approach to degree attainment. Read here for more detail about why it’s such a fruitful and promising collaboration.

Year Up Related

All the News That’s Fit to Print

Chronic unemployment of low-income and minority young adults

  • The editorial board at the Times underlines the “crisis of minority unemployment” – citing a recent report focused on the young adults of Chicago – where nearly half of black men age 20-24 are out of school and work. What’s particularly tragic is that we know what it takes to reverse this tide – like subsiding work programs – because we’ve done it successfully before. Up to congress to act.
  • A pretty jarring chart, outlining the demographic breakdown of employees in tech. Very, very little black, latino, and female representation.

Employer Demand

News in Higher Ed

  • A thorough report on trends in community college enrollment and completion data. Noticeable declines in community college and for-profit private university enrollment rates – which both surged during the recession. For-profit’s have shrunk in student enrollment by 13.7% in the last year alone. Report speculates that perhaps as the economy recovers students have left school to join workforce.
  • A new report about the UK’s apprentice programs and the challenges that are raised as policy tries to keep up with an increasingly complex employer landscape.
  • In their marketing materials, colleges often share their cost of attendance. It turns out, they’re often providing low estimates–which is an especially difficult prospect for low-income students who do not have a safety net to cover these costs. The details are laid out in this Century Foundation report. 
  • Colleges are definitely considered “great” in the US if they have so many applicants, that they can reject almost all of them. Bill Gates highlights efforts by colleges to accept, and then actually support, students who were not successful in high school.
  • The Atlantic collects feedback on President Obama’s record on higher ed from higher ed establishment types. Summary: We didnt get any more money, and you never asked for our advice.
  • High school graduation rates are higher than ever. The Atlantic digs into why this has not led to a rise in college going rates.

Disruption/ Innovation

  • In his blog, the Reliquinshment, Neerav Kingsland opens up a discussion about the next steps for the k-12 education reform movement. What happens after graduation? Neerva highlights Match Education’s efforts with Match beyond.
  • How do people, without work experience, land that first job? The Feds wade into this issue with increased funding and programs from the Department of Labor and Department of Education.
  • Paul LeBlanc, President of Southern New Hampshire University, shares his thoughts on the coming trends in Higher Education.  It’s concise. Sharp. And probably NOT The trends that any other college president would identify.

Match Beyond and Year Up

One of the most interesting higher ed and ed-to-employment partnerships I’ve seen develop in the last couple of years is the hookup of Match Beyond and Year Up.

I asked Jake Weissbourd, Higher Education Specialist at Year Up Boston, and Mike Larsson, Chief Operating Officer and Co-Founder of Match Beyond, who’ve worked closely over the last year, to share how their organizations have partnered over the last year. Over to Jake and Mike …..


Year Up is a nation-wide organization that seeks to “close the opportunity divide” by providing urban young adults with the skills, experience, and support that will empower them to reach their potential through professional careers and higher education. It’s a one-year program, split between 6 months of in-class “learning and development”, and 6 months of a professional internship with a corporate partner. Match Beyond – an organization with a very similar mission – provides personal coaching, study support, and job placement services to high school graduates in Boston who enroll in low-cost Associate’s and Bachelor’s degree programs at College for America, an innovative online arm of Southern New Hampshire University.


James Normil – a Match Beyond alum and employee, highlighted here – serves as the perfect introduction to a discussion about our organization’s collaboration. James, who graduated from Year Up in 2010 and went on to get an Associates Degree at Match Beyond years later, is now working at Match Beyond and helping to lead efforts in recruiting Year Up Boston students to the program. What we’re working towards is a system wherein James wouldn’t have had to take the long-road to a degree that he embarked on after Year Up. Instead, he’d have begun Match Beyond while a Year Up participant (or shortly thereafter), and then landed a job and simultaneously earned a degree, without undergoing the painstaking credit transfer process or amassing of debt.

How’d we get here? (Jake)

Historically, Year Up Boston’s sent only about 10% of its grads onto college – something recognized as a primary obstacle for our alumni and their career progression. Fortunately last year, State Street Bank, a long-time employer partner of Year Up’s, committed through the Boston WIN’s grant, to boosting our participants prospects of degree attainment. They fund my position, the Higher Education Specialist at Year Up, so that I can increase the % of our graduates who continue college after the program. The funding adds capacity so we can support our grads as they continue on many different paths, but has the the added benefit of unlocking career mobility and earning potential for our grads employed specifically at State Street. Thanks to this recent financial commitment, our graduating class of July 2015 saw a four fold increase in our college continuation rates. There is no greater contributor to that success than our partnering with Match Beyond.

Match Beyond – such a natural fit for our students for it’s flexibility, affordability, career-linked curriculum, and high support – also happens to be located directly across the street. It’s proximity actually made possible our “Match Beyond Pilot” last fall – when we decided to enroll 15 students there early on in their “Year Up” (as opposed to when they became alumni). 5 months in, and it’s a resounding success: with all on pace to finish an Associate’s Degree within two years, and some on track to earn one within a year of starting. We’ve even had an additional 15 current Year Up students choose to enroll.

From a student’s perspective:  (Mike)

The traditional college experience forces students to make a choice: prioritize school over career and family, or take a very long time to earn a degree. This can be an especially demoralizing choice for Year Up students alums, who, because of the incredible work of Year Up have been given the opportunity to intern and gain real-life work experience but who often must compete against colleagues with college degrees for career advancement. Year Up’s new partnership with Match Beyond, though, changes that paradigm. Because of the flexibility of the College for America curriculum delivery model, and the support form Match Beyond coaches, college and career are no longer at odds and the power of the individual can be unleashed. Take Barry for instance. Barry is a top-notch Year Up student. He began his work with Match Beyond in November while taking Year Up classes. And was off to a strong start. In January he was given a tremendous opportunity to intern at a software sales firm. They expected a lot of Barry. And he took the opportunity to do whatever he could to prove himself during his internship. This meant though, that for a couple of months, college had to take a back seat. And that was ok. He worked closely with his Match Beyond coach to grab hours for school here or there, often on Friday nights or Sunday afternoons. But he got far less done in school than he had in the winter. But that was ok.  By the time April arrived, he had a good handle on his job–and a likely offer to stay on after his internship in a permanent role–and he was ready to jump back into school, exactly where he left off. He’s hoping to earn his AA degree in one year, and his BA in two to three years while still working full-time, earning a salary, and gaining invaluable work experience that will set him up for long term success in the workforce.

From Match Beyond’s Perspective: (Mike)

From our perspective, the age-old-puzzle for new entrants to the workforce is more prevalent than ever: “You can’t get hired if you don’t have experience, and you can’t get experience if you don’t get hired”. We see it every day while working with our non-Year-Up students, most of whom have work-experience, but usually in low-wage service jobs. Despite being amazing, hard-working, smart, talented people, they often need to go above and beyond, and work closely with our career coaches, to network, get their foot in the door and get their resume even reviewed. Year Up students, though come with an internship, and the Year Up stamp of approval. This immediately gets a key barrier out of the way.  When an applicant has State Street or Wellington or one of the countless other premier companies that Year Up partners with of his or her resume, they immediately (rightly or wrongly!) become a more credible candidate to front-line HR staff and resume reviewers across the city.  We’re excited to have built this partnership with Year Up, and we’re looking forward to seeing how high our shared students can climb as they couple their tremendous work experience with AA and BA degrees.

Next Steps: (Jake)

Ultimately what’s most exciting to us is the prospect of a young adult enrolling in Match Beyond and Year Up – and upon completion of their Year, both earning an impressive salary and an Associate’s Degree. We also look further, to the subsequent two years, where we hope  employer partners will help advance the tuitions of Year Up alumni on Match Beyond’s Bachelor’s Degree track.  If so, we see great potential for many of our grads earning Bachelor’s Degrees within three years of enrolling at Year Up – with no debt and two and a half years of work experience.

It’s a win for all parties involved: Year Up has a way to proliferate and accelerate degree-credentialing for its grads, Match Beyond can leverage Year Up’s career placement expertise for its students, our employer partners can hire and develop more academically qualified alumni, and above all, low-income young adults have a pathway to success that doesn’t force them to choose between debt or career stagnation.

Learn to Work vol 12

Here’s the latest sweep from the world of education-to-employment, where all the job seekers are above average …

As a quick reminder — if you like any of this stuff, the biggest way you can chip in is by helping build our community. Please invite others to sign up here and join our Learn to Work LinkedIn group here!

Anything you’ve seen recently worth sharing? Thanks peeps!


Story Hour

I loved this personal story from Kepler’s long lost twin Match Beyond — about the relationship between student James Normil and coach Bob Hill and how it helped fuel James’ persistence through the College for America program. Check out the amazing (and far too common) snapshot at the bottom illustrating James’ crazy path through higher education, culminating in an Associate’s degree 12 years and 4 colleges after first enrolling in college straight out of high school. The relationship at the center of the story reminds me of the anecdote I shared at the end of vol. 8 — about how a professor who “bonded her life to mine” helped keep one amazing student from dropping out of college.

Thought Pieces

Interesting “Boots to Books” podcast on the military-to-college/civilian employment challenge from American Radio Works (which consistently puts out great stuff like this other podcast on teacher training / Japanese-style “lesson study”). It’s nothing short of criminal how we leave returning vets high and dry when it comes to transitioning back into employment / study — and is currently screwing millions of people that way as the huge waves of vets from Iraq/Afghanistan come home. This podcast is also a fascinating history of the GI Bill which was the game-changer for higher ed in the 20th century (like land-grant colleges in the 19th).

Recommended Reads

Also, check out this cool offer from community member Srikant Vasan whose venture Skillstore seeks to transform soft skills training using live video practice and peer feedback. “We’re now kicking off our next phase of growth by inviting our friends and acquaintances and their organizations to try SkillStore. We’re letting them get some of our popular modules for free, forever – so long as they sign up by March 31. There’s no long-term commitment – we just want people to check us out.”

All the News That’s Fit to Print

  • Vocational ed and alternative pathways/credentials
    • BBC – Vocational Education’s Global Gap – While the vocational program gap exists globally, it is acutely felt in the US, where there are only 400k apprentices, half as many as in the UK. Part of this is social stigma around vocational ed. (Related: for those of you who subscribe to Chronicle of Higher Ed – Should the US Become a Nation of Apprentices?)
    • Helpful overview paper via EdCentral on the need for training/work-based pathways to bachelor’s degrees — good read if you haven’t read much on CTE / vocational / etc.
    • Hechinger with data on how, as a prospective vocational/CTE student, you really need to pick your spots for it to pay off (and sadly you’re unlikely to be armed with the right info given the piss-poor state of advising/support)
  • Miscellaneous

And here it is, your moment of Zen — have been meaning to share this: late last year at a debate, Marco Rubio made the case for more vocational programs: “Welders make more money than philosophers. We need more welders and less philosophers.” What we really need is fewer candidates in the Republican race. But for what it’s worth, philosophers make more than welders (and both have a better business model than newsletter writers).



Learn to Work vol. 11

Here’s the latest sweep from the world of education-to-employment, where all the job seekers are above average…

This edition of Learn to Work is brought to you by Will Houghteling, North American lead at Minerva. Minerva is a new, accredited university program designed by a former Harvard Dean and a successful entrepreneur to rethink top-tier higher ed for the 21st century (and beyond). Minerva students live in seven of the world’s greatest cities during their four years of college, attending class in small active learning seminars throughout. Will is currently hiring a student outreach manager — please email him (will@minerva.kgi.edu) if you know anyone who may be a match.

If anyone else is interested in guest-posting please let me know! I’d love to do more of this over time.

As always if you know people who might be interested in these updates, have them add their email here. Also, still looking for the next CEO of Spire so keep the ideas coming!


All the News That’s Fit to Print

  • Future of work (particularly WRT automation)
    • The Atlantic Magazine’s summer cover story on A World Without Work
    • World Economic Forum Agenda – Can we predict which jobs will be replaced by robots? Robots won’t replace jobs in whole, but in part (and for everyone, not just low skilled jobs). What parts of job descriptions can and can’t be automated? Education should focus on improving the non automatable pieces (eg data science may not be as important in the future if that’s something we could outsource to AI).
    • The MIT Technology Review – Work in Transition – the jobs of the future will require creative, innovative and flexible workers — major curricular/pedagogical challenge of current ed is determining how we can teach that directly rather than hope and pray students picks it up in liberal arts education through osmosis while studying more traditional content classes?
    • Forbes – How to thrive after college — 3 obvious but underrated skills – one basic way to view the gap between employers and universities is that universities are in individualized content memorization business whereas employers are in the collaborative problem solving business. Employers want students with metacognitive skills (oral communication, problem solving in diverse areas, interact effectively with peers) rather than just subject-area understanding.
  • E-Portfolios:
  • Graduation rates:
  • Competency based ed update
    • 5 Steps to Successful Competency Based Programs in Education Dive … generally a vanilla piece includes one important stat: there are reportedly >600 schools either currently or in-development to enroll students in competency-based programs (not just WGU anymore). Is this a gold-rush for easier tuition dollars, or a genuinely innovative way to teach and learn? If one large goal of these programs is to assess what people already know, seems like eportfolios or college exit exams may be better/faster/cheaper approach.
  • The Three Horsemen of the Education Apocalypse, aka, MOOC update

Learn to Work vol. 10

Here’s the latest sweep from the world of education-to-employment, where all the job seekers are above average …

In the Stop the Presses! category:

  • One small step in moving Learn to Work from newsletter toward community: just set up a LinkedIn group for us in case some of y’all cats in the Learn to Work community want to connect with some of the other hamburglers and cheeseburglers in the crew, and share your own updates/job opps/blogging/etc. Some amazing people in our midst and everyone’s blind to everyone else! Let’s fix that. Join here!!
  • Exciting news – we’re starting a search for the next CEO of Spire to take us into the next phase of our growth as my co-founder Oliver R begins to spend more time in the US late next year. This is an opportunity to take the reins of a successful, rapidly-growing startup and build a transformative model with the future of Africa’s talent pool at stake. I’d really appreciate it if you could spread the word and put me in touch with anyone who might be intrigued and open to a no-strings-attached chat.

Anything you’ve seen recently worth sharing? H/t Rachel Romer Carlson for flagging one of the pieces below on apprenticeships and Molly Lindsay for the Yglesias piece

If you know anyone else who might be interested in these updates, have them add their email here. Great wave of new signups after the last blast. Thanks peeps!


Thought Pieces

  • In education-to-employment training, I’d argue nothing is more ballgame that culture — the team culture among the staff doing the training, and the student/trainee culture. This fascinating Invisibilia podcast on blind children learning to echolocate (and ride bikes! among other things) is a powerful illustration of how high expectations produce amazing things. I’d put high expectations right up there with growth mindset as my top 2 culture draft picks in my fantasy culture draft. And the beauty of these culture instruments is they’re free! No hit to your cost structure.

Special Feature: How the Landscape of Job Search and Employer Hiring Practices is Changing

All the News that’s Fit to Print

  • Bootcamp stuff …. the Fed gov’t push to experiment w making bootcamp programs Federal-aid-eligible seems to be coinciding with a wave of college-bootcamp partnership innovation … not sure what the chicken-egg relationship is but who cares, great to see!
    • I’m jazzed up about this partnership between SNHU and Flatiron School to provide success-coach-supported online bootcamp experience and (for those who want it) path to bachelor’s degree built around Flatiron, “coop”-style with bootcamp + internship as part of 4-yr experience. Can’t for life of me understand why more universities aren’t taking a page out of the playbook of Northeastern, Waterloo, Wilfrid Laurier, etc. on integrating real-world work-based learning into college. SNHU continues to put other universities to shame when it comes to innovation
    • Big-name traditional universities (Northeastern, MIT) getting into bootcamp space — key differentiating feature could be stackable masters
    • Google co-developed curriculum for a bootcamp program (w/General Assembly) for the first time – hope to see more of this
  •  Apprenticeships

News on the Home Team

  • See infographic below from our community members at Harambee in South Africa — such fantastic progress and it’s accelerating!
  • Thanks again for your help getting the word out about the Spire CEO search!


Learn to Work vol. 9

Here’s the latest sweep from the world of education to employment, where all the job seekers are above average …

Anything you’ve seen recently worth sharing? Snaps to E2E warriors Gagan Singh Rana, Jake Weissbourd and Oliver Rothschild for sharing a few of the snippets below

If you know anyone else who might be interested in these updates, have them add their email here. Just hit our first 100 community members — please keep spreading the word!


Thought Pieces

  • Check out this fascinating piece from the NYT Mag on Xavier Univ. of Louisiana, a historically black college in NOLA, that blows up the stats on getting black students to and through medical school. What does it do differently? Just the basics: culture and rigorous execution. “We decided we could do something about it. And what we did, what our faculty did, was just plain common sense.’’ Long article so key excerpt pasted in below if you’re pressed for time. I was so excited to come across this. Kills me that more colleges and career services offices don’t even really try to run this playbook!!

All the News that’s Fit to Print

News on the Home Team


When Johnson walked through the door of Carmichael’s office, it meant the program was working as planned. The quizzes Johnson did so poorly on in his first few weeks were designed as part of Xavier’s early-­alert system. Carmichael believed that a student needed to know he was failing long before he took his midterm exam. He connected Johnson to tutoring centers set up for each of his science courses. There, Johnson met students from other classes, and they began holding large study groups led by a particularly brilliant classmate who would quickly learn the material and then teach it to others. Students would stay up until the wee hours of the morning helping one another. ‘‘You have almost a hundred kids asking questions, discussing the material,’’ Johnson said. ‘‘To see the material broken down that way was just amazing. And if you didn’t get it, they’d explain it again. And if you still didn’t get it, they’d explain it again.’’

These study groups encouraged just the sort of collaboration Francis had imagined. ‘‘It took the competition out of it,’’ Johnson said. ‘‘It wasn’t, ‘I’m mad because you got an A.’ It was, ‘How do we both do that on the next test?’ We had this feeling if we all stuck together and helped each other, we would make it.’’ Marybeth Gasman, an education professor and the head of the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Minority Serving Institutions, which does research on and assists colleges that serve large numbers of black, Latino, Asian and Native American students, has carefully examined Xavier’s program and says no school is better at developing students’ shared responsibility for one another’s success. ‘‘It is dumbfounding to see,’’ she said.

What makes Xavier’s program most unusual is its strictly tailored uniform curriculum in freshman chemistry and biology. The faculty members collaborate on what they will teach and create a workbook for these courses that every professor must use. If professors want to teach something not in a workbook, they must present it to the faculty group for approval. The workbooks take the complicated material in science textbooks, which often overwhelms students, and specifies, step by step, everything students need to know for the class. The faculty members then incorporate regular tests and drills, not only to assess students but also to evaluate whether professors need to adjust their teaching. ‘‘This is fundamentally different than the way curriculum is taught across the country,’’ Gasman said. ‘‘What happens with faculty in general: We don’t want anyone telling us what to do in our classes; we pick our textbooks; we know what is right for our students. But they teach to where the students are and not just the way they want to teach.’’

Just as critical to Xavier’s success is the blueprint it created to help students navigate every step in the process of becoming desirable medical-­school candidates. ‘‘Our formula is built on believing there is no point in time where a pre-med student at this university shouldn’t know what they ought to be doing to get into medical school,’’ Quo Vadis Webster, Xavier’s current pre-med adviser, told me. By the end of the first semester, Johnson and other pre-med students needed to turn in the first of many personal statements that were critiqued by the university’s writing center. These essays, written and rewritten several times, would eventually become the ones included in their medical-­school applications.

Johnson attended weekly meetings with Carmichael, at which he continually received checklists and timelines, learned of research and internship opportunities and met graduates who spoke firsthand about getting into medical school. The pre-med office had Johnson and his classmates gather their letters of recommendation early, made sure they were good enough and then kept them on file until they were needed. Johnson prepared for his MCATs with the help of professors, whom Carmichael had instructed to take the exams themselves so they would know what their students should expect. Wearing a suit and tie, Johnson took part in mock interviews. And when the time came, Carmichael looked over every inch of Johnson’s application to make sure it would pass muster before he sent it out. Webster noted that wealthy students at elite schools pay thousands of dollars to agencies that help perfect their medical-­school applications and for courses that help prepare them for the medical exams. Xavier’s pre-med office, with a dedicated staff of two, provides nearly all of these services free.

Former students told me again and again that Carmichael’s involvement was something akin to fierce parenting; he believed in his students and would not let them fail. He would stand in the hall, near a wall decorated with the photos of smiling Xavierites who had become doctors, and reprimand students who professors reported had missed a class or a deadline. Students had to turn in cards signed by their professors showing how they had done on quizzes. Carmichael would send letters to parents on brightly colored paper saying, ‘‘Your child wants to go to medical school,’’ but warning that for some reason, the student hadn’t done x, y and z. If that didn’t work, he would pick up the phone and call a student’s home. ‘‘There is a constant monitoring,’’ Francis said. ‘‘We expect you to learn, and if you need support, you are going to get it.’’ He has a name for this system: love and pain.