This Viewpoint is part of an ongoing series, “Building a brighter future: Big ideas for postsecondary education.” In this series, we ask leaders what could make a difference to learners in 2021 and beyond.
Ryan Craig is co-founder and managing director of Achieve Partners. Ayesha Khan is an Investment Associate at Achieve Partners.
Although college has been a rite of passage for generations, it is now battling a host of challenges that are increasingly familiar.
Nearly half of all students who undertake a degree never complete it. Among graduates, more than 4 in 10 are underemployed and are likely to remain so for decades. The higher–education policy discourse is dominated by the free-college and debt-forgiveness movements because of astronomical costs and mounting student-loan debt.
Furthermore, COVID-19 has illuminated college’s price-value gap. Nearly all colleges and universities are charging tuition for their traditional “bundled” degree programs (which include a wide range of services), when online courses are all they’re delivering.
Meanwhile, more and more employers are looking for workers with digital and business skills — skills that are only obtained through relevant work experience. Many companies are establishing their own pathways to jobs. Google announced new online career certificates (for jobs like data analyst, project manager, or UX designer), saying the company would view the certificates as the equivalent of degrees.
All these developments challenge the long-held belief that college at a six-figure price tag should be the sole universal pathway to launching careers.
At Achieve Partners, we believe new, faster, affordable pathways are desperately needed. We need to move from an “all you can eat in one sitting” learning model to a “what we need when we need it” approach.
To do this, we partner with leading companies in technology and health care to create frictionless pathways to good jobs for tens of thousands of Americans:
- We hire apprentices, who from day one are paid a living wage with benefits while they receive immersive last-mile training on specific digital, business, and soft skills.
- Following training, these apprentices are placed on client projects at our partner companies, while remaining employees of Achieve.
- After two years, the apprentices transition to full-time employees at the partner company.
This alternative model is employer-paid, not student-paid, and therefore levels the playing field for diverse students from disadvantaged backgrounds. It is our intention to build dozens of frictionless pathways to good jobs in sectors like:
- Data Science & Analytics: cloud architecture, data estate and warehouse modernization, business intelligence, AI/ ML
- Customer Relationship Management, sales & marketing automation: Salesforce, Hubspot, SaaS CRM eco system add-ons
- Digital Marketing: SEO, UI/ UX design, social media advertising
- Skilled trades: HVAC, plumbing, refrigeration, building automation systems
While it might seem radical to suggest that apprenticeships are the new frontier of postsecondary education, it’s important to keep in mind that “college for all” has only been the prevailing view for three generations. Prior to that, most good jobs were accessible without the gateway of four years and a sizable investment in tuition and fees. As America rethinks postsecondary education, expect to see a dramatic improvement in economic opportunity for those who need it most.
The Charles Koch Foundation partners with social entrepreneurs to drive societal progress through academic research and innovations that help all learners realize their potential. Read more about the Foundation’s support for education.