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Future of Work Opinion

Last-Mile Training as an Alternative to Higher Ed with Ryan Craig

By Tom Vander Ark — August 08, 2018 3 min read
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Coding bootcamps feature intense training sprints aiming at specific IT jobs. Most aren’t cheap but feature high placement rates--they are rapid reliable pathways to good first jobs.

Ryan Craig is an attorney, an entrepreneur and a venture investor. He thinks faster and cheaper last mile training programs like coding bootcamps will replace a big chunk of higher education.

When Craig sees half of the people that attempt higher ed failing to earn degrees and many of them leaving with a pile of debt, he sees an emergency, “the patient is bleeding out on the table.”

His new book, A New U, Faster + Cheaper Alternatives to College, outlines a radically different postsecondary landscape, one where everyone has access to free or at least debt-free training for high paying first job. Listen to this podcast where Ryan describes the emerging training landscape.

In this podcast, Craig explains that last mile training programs have two characteristics: technical and digital training (e.g., front-end development or Salesforce programming) and a placement component.

Effective last mile programs reduce two kinds of friction, the education friction of time to career readiness, and hiring friction. Good training programs help solve the many-to-many problem--no single institution can manage employer relationships.

Backstory on the Revolution

Ryan Craig went to Yale and appreciates the benefits of brand name selective universities. He warns against expensive non-selective universities especially without a clear sense of purpose.

Craig benefited from two early employer-sponsored learning experiences. The first was consulting at McKinsey where he learned to run a meeting and manage a project. Warburg offered a great investment apprenticeship. Craig would like to see more people have access to employer-sponsored training.

After founding and leading a school network for six years, Craig launched University Ventures, the leading postsecondary investment fund. He published his early insights in a 2015 book, College Disrupted: The Great Unbundling of Higher Education.

Craig’s new book doesn’t argue for less postsecondary education, but a radical restaging of early training--faster cheaper pathways to first jobs with no debt.

He thinks corporate sponsored degrees are overrated and sees weak short-term returns. Craig thinks the hype around Blockchain and artificial intelligence are ahead of the potential.

Craig thinks we passed “peak credential” a few years ago. Pedigrees matter less now that it’s much easier to identify competencies.

Faster and cheaper pathways to good jobs could be the best way to boost equity and combat income inequality said Craig.

Key Takeaways:

[:14] About today’s podcast and guest.
[:59] Welcoming Ryan Craig to the podcast.
[1:03] How Ryan got to Yale University and about his experience there.
[2:43] Why Ryan decided to go to law school.
[3:09] Ryan’s experience at McKinsey & Co and his apprenticeship at Warburg Pincus.
[4:26] Ryan’s previous work experience.
[4:57] About University Ventures and why Ryan decided to focus on post-secondary affordability and employability.
[7:04] What Ryan got right (and what he’d say differently) from his 2015 book, College Disrupted.
[10:26] Ryan outlines the features of last-mile training programs and gives some examples.
[15:20] How last-mile training differs greatly from higher education courses.
[21:38] Ryan’s take on careers in technical education.
[24:15] Overrated or underrated? Ryan rates online learning, liberal arts, corporate-sponsored degrees, microcredentials, blockchain, and artificial intelligence.
[29:56] Ryans gives 60-second solutions to these big problems: income equality, better access to quality career guidance, educational equity, and building more agile civic capacity.
[35:12] What’s a higher ed MVP?
[36:17] Ryan explains a quote: “Pathways to good first jobs in growing sectors of the economy don’t need to be shoehorned into credentials.”
[37:22] Where to find Ryan online.

Mentioned in This Episode:

University Ventures
A New U: Faster + Cheaper Alternatives to College, by Ryan Craig
Yale University
McKinsey & Co.
Warburg Pincus
College Disrupted: The Great Unbundling of Higher Education, by Ryan Craig
Conversations with Tyler Podcast
Admit Hub
@RyanCraigUV (Ryan’s Twitter)
Ryan’s Forbes Column

For more see:


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