Preparing For Jobs That Don’t Yet Exist

Tuesday, January 26, 2021 - Michelle Weise returns to Future U to talk about her new book, Long Life Learning: Preparing for Jobs that Don’t Even Exist Yet and why creating a new learning ecosystem for what’s ahead is so critical for all of us.

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Jeff Selingo:

Hi Michael remember when we were in person a few years ago, back at an actual live in-person conversation, remember those things. And Michelle Weiss was moderating a panel to try and figure out a better name for lifelong learning.

Michael Horn:

I do indeed Jeff and it seems as though she ultimately decided on a new phrase, Long Life Learning. That's the name of her new book, which came out at the end of 2020. Today, we get to have Michelle back on Future U to talk about it.

Michael Horn:

I'm Michael Horn

Jeff Selingo:

And I'm Jeff Selingo. For those loyal Future U listeners out there, you may remember all the way back to those more innocent days of 2018, when we had Michelle Weiss on our show to talk about the future of work and automation and what it pretended for higher education. Well, Michelle has been hard at work over the past couple of years, turning all of her research and insights into a book Long Life Learning, preparing for jobs that don't even exist yet. Which we will get to talk to her about today. So first welcome back to Future U Michelle.

Michelle:

Thanks Jeff. Hi Micheal.

Michael Horn:

It's good to see you, Michelle and good to have you here. And we're going to spare you our normal question of how did you get into higher ed Michelle? Because you've answered that for us before. But given that many of our listeners likely haven't read your book yet, can you give us the cliff notes version to wet the appetite, if you will. And specifically I'd love to hear what inspired you to write the book? What was your why behind this book?

Michelle:

Sure. I'm surprised though that not everyone has read the book. Just kidding.

Michael Horn:

They'll get there.

Michelle:

Yeah, so I wrote this book actually it really first began with an EdSurge article I wrote on designing a new learning ecosystem for the future of work. And part of it was a little bit of frustration in seeing so much talk about lifelong learning. But very little translating into different investment theses for folks on the education reform side, for philanthropists, for venture capital funds. I wasn't seeing a lot of investment in that lifelong learning space. And so that is really kind of what prompted me to sort of try to synthesize a lot of insights to think about how do we actually get to the building. How do we do this work and stop talking about it? And so the book is obviously a turn of phrase it's kind of upending this idea of lifelong learning.

Michelle:

And for me, the concept of a longer life and a longer work life has just been a really helpful mental model and a way to shift a mindset into thinking about the kinds of ways in which the future of work is actually inextricably tied to the future of education. If we are going to have to navigate continuous job changes that means we're going to have to somehow access also learning to remain competitive in the workforce. And so that's really what this book is about, is trying to sort of push readers and sort of use this kind of forcing function of a longer work life to move us into action.

Michael Horn:

So, Michelle, I remember that before the pandemic hit this is all anybody could talk about, right? It was about automation and artificial intelligence and what it might do to jobs and this how higher education should perform our change because of it. Right now, we've of course both had the dubious distinction of writing books, where we did a lot of the research and writing before the pandemic and then the pandemic hit. So what's changed since you wrote the book because of the pandemic and what's the same as you wrote it.

Michelle:

Yeah, it was interesting because as I was writing the book, I think implicit in the way I was approaching, how to think about the future of work was in order to shift people away from all these trending conversations about automation. And the millions of jobs at stake, because of advancements in Machine learning. I was trying to sort of move that conversation over from the future of work, to the future of workers. And I was mentally thinking, Oh, this is going to take a good five to 10 years of movement building to really kind of start moving us in the right direction.

Michelle:

To stitching together solutions and both new and existing solutions in order to build this new learning ecosystem. So, that's kind of the way my mind was set prior to the pandemic. And so when the pandemic hit, it just sort of made moot a lot of the discussion in my book about the urgency to build now for the future of work. Because what became just so starkly clear is that all of those cracks in our education and workforce infrastructure left even more Americans at risk.

Michelle:

It just left millions upon millions of people stuck, unable to transition and transfer their skills from one domain to another. So it was almost helpful to have that kind of push and move of the future into our current state. But it also kind of freaked me out a little in terms of, Oh my gosh, does this mean I need to rewrite the entire book? And luckily I didn't have to do it. It was just sort of some reframing of that sense of urgency but in so many ways, COVID-19 actually really made starkly clear the group that I had been trying to point to which was 41 million Americans who had a high school degree only were not earning a living wage. We're not thriving in the labor market. I was trying to point attention to those folks before, but they just immediately came into that sort of front and center for us to be able to say, "This has not been working and clearly we need to kind of do better."

Michael Horn:

And you do an incredible job, Michelle. And the book of really not, not just referring to the statistics of those 41 million, but pulling out their individual stories in some cases. To really make this overlooked and unserved part of the population real. And you started to go there when you were just answering Jeff's question about how do we move to this ecosystem? But I'd love to go a little bit deeper because you go into a lot of depth about what a new ecosystem of learning really should look like to support learners in navigating seamlessly through different jobs.

Michael Horn:

And a longer life in all likelihood, assuming we can buck current trends in chronic disease and I guess COVID. And so I'd love to hear your voiceover first about like, just so people can get a sense of what that ecosystem would look like in your mind. But maybe more importantly, how would we get to that end state? As you said, the push is definitely there right now, but how do you see the system morphing to create that ecosystem that is more seamless ultimately?

Michelle:

Yeah. So the easiest way for me to describe what I mean by a better functioning learning ecosystem is if you were to take anyone off the side of the street, who's just anyone walking down a sidewalk and say, "How are you going to navigate your next job change?" Right? The answers would just be all over the map. And a lot of people I think, would just be feel sort of stuck in terms of, I don't know who I would call. I don't know exactly how I would be even begin that search process. And it's so inordinately difficult, just handling one job change.

Michelle:

So if we want to do this better 20, 30 times over across this longer work-life, we need more of the existing solutions. And the three of us we've seen the incredible burgeoning of tech innovations and all kinds of beautiful solutions that are emerging. But most folks don't even know that they exist. So how do we bring together better career navigation services, guidance human touchpoints, wraparound support services. How do we also make learners and workers aware of the fact that there are these actual really interesting kinds of more precise educational opportunities?

Michelle:

You don't always have to go for a four year bachelor's degree or a one-year certificate. There's sometimes these very short burst opportunities where you can skill up. And others may not know that certain employers have really interesting ways of integrating, earning and learning at the same time. And then how do we get also to more fair and transparent hiring practices? Those are the core principles of a better functioning learning ecosystem. And the purpose of the book is to say, "Yes."

Michelle:

We have so many fragmented, disparate, existing solutions out there. We have new ones. We have more traditional ones, but if we can actually get to a place where within any sort of local area or region where someone can kind of understand how all these things come together in service of my job change, that's when we have that kind of better functioning ecosystem. But all of this stuff can start to sound very abstract. So in the book, I was really trying to ground this with the voices of people who are bumping up against the constraints that make this impossible today.

Michelle:

And so there's a lot of voices you get to hear from 100s of learners talking about those barriers and those obstacles. And then I also wanted this to be a very positive vision of the future. So there are probably close to 80 different seeds of innovation that I point to, to say there is a better future forward. We just have to stitch this together in a more easily navigable and comprehensible way.

Michael Horn:

Yeah, it's interesting Michelle, when I hear you say that and framing and against what's happened over the last many months of the pandemic. It's interesting, right? Because you look at the Strata Data of so many working adults wanting short form programs, not wanting the traditional degree programs right now. Looking at the data from credibly that enrollment in certificate programs and short form programs is up. I think 70% while we know higher ed degree enrollment is down largely grad enrollment slightly up. But not that sort of explosion that we've seen perhaps in past recessions. So do you think the word is getting out about these different pathways and this different ecosystem that has started to emerge albeit in fragmented fashion?

Michelle:

I think we'll get there. I think for most individuals who are navigating this on their own it is really difficult. It's also really difficult for folks in more rural areas to navigate this space because a lot of the solutions that we see in these short form, short burst micro-credential kind of programs are happening more in urban centers. The different kinds of on-ramps that I point to they're not necessarily making that translation into more rural areas. But it's fascinating to Michael, you and I come from a background of working with Clayton Christensen and thinking about this concept of non-consumers, right?

Michelle:

The people for whom the alternative is really nothing at all. And I think there's just so much more of an opportunity for both traditional institutions, but also some of the more new fangled, alternative learning providers to really think about what are those constraints that really get... What are the greatest education in hiring frictions for more mature adult learners? And when we get there, we can actually design more easily and more intuitively the kinds of interventions we need to make for those learners. I think we've been doing it in sort of a more haphazard way. At least from the side of colleges and universities. There hasn't been a real major pivot toward this kind of new consumer of education. And that's what we really need to see.

Michael Horn:

So Michelle kind of curious about how you landed on the phrase Long Life Learning.

Michelle:

Yeah. It first came from just reading about different sorts of forecasts from and predictions from futurists and experts on aging and longevity thinking about longer lifespans. There was even some really interesting stuff where I was seeing a new market emerge from some Merrill Lynch investors who were calling this market a mortality which is just sort of these death delaying interventions and innovations. And they sort of see this as being a multi-billion dollar industry.

Michelle:

So it was just really fascinating, kind of learning more about this concept of a longer life. And for me, again, it was this real it just sort of snapped everything into relief where, Oh my God, if we're going to live maybe 150 years to be 150 years old, does that suddenly mean our work lives are going to be 80 or 100 years long? And how in the world is even just a four year college degree going to sustain us through that more turbulent work-life. And so that's really that concept of Long Life Learning.

Michael Horn:

Well, while we searched for Ponce de Leon you referenced it earlier, Michelle, which is that we obviously share a past as colleagues at the Clayton Christensen Institute. And in the book right upfront, you give an incredible treatise on what is and isn't disruptive innovation and why the concept should matter to higher education. And I'm curious because disruption is a concept. I think it's fair to say with a negative brand image in higher education, if you will. And so I'm curious what led you to spend so much time upfront on this concept. And I think listeners would be curious to hear your take. Is disruption taking place in higher ed in your view?

Michelle:

Yeah. So the reason why I think it's important to think about disruption in higher education is it's one of those things where it's obviously been misused by a lot of different people. But I think the other part of this is that we often just sort of think about the connotation of disruption with doom. And really instead disruption offers us this clear and constructive and productive lens through which we can look at things that look strange unfamiliar and sometimes a very low quality, things that we would often just sort of scorn or dismiss immediately.

Michelle:

But for me, it gives me that sort of moment of pause to say, "Why am I about to just sort of want to dismiss this thing." What's fascinating within higher education is we have actually known for quite some time that our college going learner population is changing and transforming, right? The whole idea of a non-traditional learner for quite some time has been sort of a ridiculous misnomer because most of our learners have something that sort of that would qualify them as a non-traditional learner.

Michelle:

But we also know that if you look at projections of the kinds of colleges, the sort of learner populations that are coming out of high school, the number of grads are really plateauing. And really when you get to kind of the mid 2030s, you see this real huge enrollment cliff. And what's fascinating to me is to see the lack of movement within institutions. To start moving toward this huge opportunity, which exists, which is this untapped market of adult learners, who know they have to somehow remain competitive in the workforce by acquiring new skills.

Michelle:

But we're not really trying to think about what those new models look like. And so the reason why I spend so much time on disruption is to show that I think there's a lot of really interesting stuff going on, where we give a lot of attention, especially to some of these mega universities. The universities that have over a hundred thousand online learners. But to say that even that is not quite enough, because we're not truly transforming the pathways, the channels through which we meet these learners, the funding models, the mechanisms through which we sustain these kinds of learning pathways to say there's really an opportunity to do a whole lot more. And to say, also, we may be looking at the wrong ideals or paradigms as the way to move forward.

Michael Horn:

Michelle let's just lean into that for before we close out here. That lack of movement in institutions toward this huge opportunity as you describe it. Because many of our listeners work at those traditional colleges and universities and Long Life Learning to them, I think has always been shoved off to the corner of campus and continuing education. So how should these institutions think about this huge opportunity as you described it strategically. Or do you have any specific tactics you would recommend to them to take advantage of this?

Michelle:

Yeah, and I hope that's something that they sort of gleaned from that second chapter on disruption, which is that it is inordinately difficult to do from within. And I feature some of the voices from some of the universities that have been doing this for quite some time to show the kinds of ruts they fall into. It's truly that kind of innovator's dilemma in action within each of these universities. But to say that really there is an open opportunity to reimagine and reinvent the things that they do actually have control over.

Michelle:

And for me, that really comes in the form of problem-based learning. As we think about cultivating more sort of nimble agile thinkers of the future, who can demonstrate range and basically engage in this kind of analogical thinking where you're able to take knowledge from one domain and use those concepts to solve problems in a totally seemingly unrelated domain.

Michelle:

That to me is the sort of prize kind of learner we want to cultivate for the future. People who can really deal with ambiguous circumstances in the future. And that's where we really need to get to the business of real world problem solving. And you see this happening in very niche ways where a professor will do a project based learning, or do a capstone experience where they engage in this kind of contextualized learning. But we don't see it in a real systematic way. And the colleges or the K-12 schools that do that are sort of few and far between.

Michelle:

So this to me is sort of the real low hanging fruit for our universities is to think through what does it mean to sort of truly move away from content delivery to inquiry based models. And not only that, it's not just for those 18 to 24 year olds, because I think we tend to think about the kinds of curriculum we can develop, the more immersive kinds of programs we can do. When it comes to thinking about this kind of purpose learning or problem-based learning. But how are you going to do this for someone who maybe is like a 47 year old truck driver who also needs to build these really important skills?

Michelle:

It's not just about acquiring tech skills. But how do you build that kind of real world problem-based problem solving for these very different kinds of more mature learners. And what do those look like? I think that's really an exciting opportunity ahead.

Michael Horn:

It's great to have you here again with us I highly recommend the book Long Life Learning, preparing for jobs that don't even exist yet. Michelle Weiss, thank you so much for joining us on Future U today and we'll be right back.

Jeff Selingo:

And welcome back to Future U and our conversation with Michelle Weiss, author of the new book, Long Life Learning, preparing for jobs that don't even exist yet. So, Michael, I want to get your take on something. Michelle said that before the pandemic, everyone was talking about Life Long Learning. But there wasn't as much movement in building a platform for it. The pandemic maybe accelerated that movement given the massive disruption of jobs.

Jeff Selingo:

Now you've done a lot of writing in this area. What do you think are the building blocks of a Life Long Learning platform like who is investing in it? And one thing in particular that we didn't get to talk about it earlier is how do we as learners? How are we going to be able to pay for this?

Michael Horn:

Yeah. I love that question, Jeff. And I would say, firstly, I have some skepticism that there's going to be a platform that's intentionally built that takes into account, frankly, all of the aspects of that future learning ecosystem that Michelle identifies in the book. Plus the one that you just talked about, which to me is a really important one, which is the payments for all of this. I think it's incredibly significant to figure that out and not just figure out frankly, the payments for learning. But the payment for a student's life expenses while they might be taking a timeout to learn, right.

Michael Horn:

It's not clear that they're going to be able to balance work and make the investment in the learning that's required to be able to complete and so forth. And so I think we're going to just have to think about that more broadly than we as a society have done to this point. But here's something to chew on that as I think about the question more broadly, which is that and if you'll allow me to take a story from a different realm. It turns out that typically when we see these massive ecosystem changes. It's not just like a couple parts of the system change and then like magically we're there.

Michael Horn:

It's really whole value networks of new entities pop up and form this new system that replaces the system that existed before. And what's key is those pieces have to fit together and have economics that work together and rhythms of how they serve students that work together. And so the analogy is when back in the 1950s, consumer electronics were powered by vacuum tubes, made by companies like RCA and Zenith.

Michael Horn:

And then Sony comes along with these little transistor radios powered by transistors. And over the next two decades comes to replace consumer electronics from vacuum tube to transistor power devices. But it wasn't just Sony that replaced RCA. It was also the stores through which electronics were sold completely changed. Whereas before RCA would sell through suppliers that would make their money on helping you fix your appliances when the vacuum tubes would burn out. Fortunately for Sony target Walmart and Kmart were all founded in 1962. And it was a perfect channel to sell these devices through that didn't need any repair with frankly stores that couldn't have done any of the repair.

Michael Horn:

And it was a whole new set of suppliers as well that worked with Sony to make this shift possible. And I think that's kind of what we need to see happen here. And it's not going to be neat and tidy I don't think it's going to be sort of something that we can spell out specifically. And so you have company like where I spend a lot of time Guild education that's working on not just retaining employees, but also up-skilling re-skilling and out skilling them, helping them move into next things. David Blake founder of Degreed has now founded a company learn in a that's really thinking about how do we create time for employees to be able to invest in learning this in themselves and employers to get their next waves of folks.

Michael Horn:

There's places like shift up that create learning gymnasiums, places for Life Long Learners. There's Udemy and Coursera and LinkedIn learning and things like that boot camps and last mile providers. And frankly, I think those entities Jeff are going to need to move up market. They're really good at the entry-level jobs right now. But you talk to anyone in computer science and they're like a bootcamp gives you the basics to do say web programming, but it doesn't teach you to think like a computer scientist and frame those problems. And if we're serious about a lifelong learning arc, they're going to have to move up market and be able to do more of frankly, what colleges do way better right now than some of these alternative providers.

Michael Horn:

And I think that's speaks to the funding piece then lastly, which is income share agreements or some of these novel financing mechanisms. Or frankly the government to come in and perhaps fund life expenses while you're learning in the same way. Unemployment pays for you while you're searching for a job. Maybe we give you a reimbursement for life expenses while you're learning as an adult. Or some version of universal basic income to fill that gap. But there's going to have to be some stuff that makes a more liquid marketplace in my estimation. And I don't think we see all the pieces there yet in my estimation. I'm curious your opinion. It's I mean, is this another example where the pandemic has accelerated innovation? Or do you have some pause around that Jeff?

Jeff Selingo:

So Michael, before I answer your great question, I want to press on two things you just said terms of perhaps boot camps moving up market, right? Those other skills that employers need, does that mean they're going to move up market, or is this an opportunity for partnerships? For example, with universities who not in all cases, but in some cases do a pretty good job at teaching those skills. So, that's the first question I wanted to press on.

Michael Horn:

So I love the question, Jeff, because I think that's exactly right. And the piece that I didn't get to say is, I think there's going to have to be more of an acknowledgement of stackability if you will, right? Between these credentials that are earned through these alternative providers that stack into something greater within degree programs potentially. And we know entities like Southern New Hampshire University and Western Governors University are trying to figure out how to manage those interfaces right now.

Michael Horn:

And that intersection, frankly, it's what Dan Greenstein when he was on our podcast. He talked about as well about how do you combine these ecosystems to make something that is greater than the sum of its parts? I think is a big question. I think the only pause I have Jeff is it going to be the traditional system that is able to do that, or is it really going to be the disruptors within higher ed. The Southern New Hampshire's, the competency-based providers that are uniquely positioned to do that because they're able to acknowledge learning wherever it occurs, as opposed to credit hours.

Jeff Selingo:

Yeah. And I think the other idea that you were talking about in terms of funding this, whatever it is it has to not have a lot of friction to it. Because if people are going to have to, even if they're going to have like lifelong learning accounts or something like that, but you have to apply for it. You do unemployment insurance for something like that. That's way too much friction I think for people who need to have a course that they have to take, for example, for a job they're applying for next week that just won't work for the most part, right?

Michael Horn:

Totally. And I think those accounts are probably for the more substantial investments right? Of learning that where you might have to take, what's essentially a sabbatical. And that you need to have significantly frankly, money in the bank, lifelong learning accounts. Governor Jeb Bush proposed when he ran for president in 2016. If I remember correctly or frankly, the decline in the price of these programs for the short form things. I mean a week or two program that may make it liquid enough that individuals can get by if you will.

Michael Horn:

But I think for the bigger chunks where you really some of this work just takes time and you're really going to have to invest in learning a whole new skillset. We need to figure out a way that reduces the friction, but make sure that the dollars are there for learners and that they can take the time to invest in it. Because I just think it's a pipe dream if we're asking people to do it on the learn a whole new field that didn't exist five years earlier on the side while they're working in being a parent and so on and so on. It seems like a pipe to lifestyle.

Jeff Selingo:

And Michael, going back to your earlier question to me, this is why I'm a little skeptical, whether the pandemic has accelerated innovation in this area. And it's unfortunate because I think that this is a huge area of opportunity for traditional higher ed but I'm skeptical for a couple of reasons. One is I was speaking recently to an Australian higher education official who was lamenting how in some ways how the virus kind of disappeared in Australia so quickly that employment bounce back, thus reducing the pressure on education to reform, right?

Jeff Selingo:

And so obviously here in the U.S. particularly, we're not seeing the virus disappear as quickly. So I think the longer this goes on, the more pressure there is on the education and employment systems to change. But I still think that there's now that we have a vaccine and the vaccine is rolling out, I think there is less pressure to change.

Jeff Selingo:

Now, we all want this virus to go away. I'm not saying we should keep the virus around in order to reform education, but I think that there's less pressure on it to change as a result. I also just think there's fewer incentives for colleges to serve lifelong learners, right? All the activity we still see is so focused on 18 to 24 year olds. I think of a New York times story the other day about the unemployment system, which was really built for the 20th century, not built for the modern workforce and the same as with a higher ed system and colleges really need incentives to change. And the money really goes to traditional students, right? So unless we, as a government think, well, we're going to give maybe less money for federal loans or less money for Pell grants and things like that.

Jeff Selingo:

I just don't see where the incentives are going to come. And then finally because we think of college as something that happens to young people. And Michelle brought up this point about how learners need to know that these lifelong opportunities even exist. Right? She mentioned the 41 million adults who have a high school education and no college. Well, as we know the traditional on-ramp in to getting students, even into this mindset, that education is lifelong happens three months after high school graduation with college.

Jeff Selingo:

And unless we get students onto that, on-ramp where we figure out other on-ramps I don't quite know how we're going to get the adults into a mindset that education is lifelong. So, Michael, this gets me to this question for you is I'm curious if, to think if we're moving in the wrong direction here, right? Because we know from the national clearinghouse data that fewer 18 year olds went right onto college this year. And someone we mutually know well, Jon Marcus from Hechinger just had a piece this week about male enrollment in particular. That I think probably need to take a closer look at a future episode, right? It's way down, right? Way down male enrollment.

Jeff Selingo:

So what happens when learners don't find the on-ramp right after college? How do they find it later on? So that they're not, I'm sorry. Right. The on-ramp right after high school, how do they find it later on so that they're not left behind? Is there a role that employers can play here?

Michael Horn:

It's a great question. And I wish I had the answer. I want to go back to two things that I think are interesting bellwethers on it. One is in terms of the ecosystem not accelerating as much as we might've liked. I wonder if it's true in the sense of short form credential enrollment is up 70% while higher ed write large is down right in, in, in the last year. And so the word is somehow getting out in some of these places. And a lot of these short form providers are doing what Ryan Craig, who we both know well has been long advocating, which is not just provide the education, but actually provide the connection into that first job by actually hiring the individual often on the school's payroll. And then basically outsource them for a variety of projects for employers who then will hire that person into the full-time job.

Michael Horn:

And I think we just need to see those development of the pathways. I have some skepticism that traditional higher ed write large we'll do that, but I think that's why we need to see more partnerships between the innovative higher ed programs and then these last mile providers. And I'll just tell you a vignette from an employee at guild who I was speaking to literally last night. So right before we were recording this where she was talking about how... She chose to go to college as a part-time student while working.

Michael Horn:

And she felt that, hat will be he new norm as we go forward. And she thought it was a better pathway actually for her than what the traditional encouragement was. And we often talk about alternative student attending college and the new normal and so forth. But to hear her articulate that she thought it was a better pathway because she was actually getting work experience in with an employer and able to balance those loads.

Michael Horn:

I think it's an interesting bellwether that outside of the bubble, in which we often live of students who are sort of fed the traditional American dream of you will go to college directly after and so forth. I wonder if there is a new narrative that is starting to emerge that might be, we can't see the system yet because it's not neat and tidy. But these pieces are starting to fall in place, very unevenly and but perhaps in a coherent way. So I think it's something interesting to think about, but it gets back to something that I'm really curious about.

Michael Horn:

And it's a question I have for you, because I think it gets back to incentives in all of this. It's incentives to work with other institutions, it's incentives from a financing perspective and it's incentives for colleges themselves. And so one incentive could be the market itself, right? And so a few years ago you wrote an interesting story about Des Moines Area Community College as part of a larger piece for the Atlantic about this topic, about lifelong learning. And I think you telling the story of what happened there would be eliminated.

Jeff Selingo:

Well because there was a case where De Moines Area Community College was near a big Maytag plant that went out of business. Because it was bought by Whirlpool and so they closed the factory down, 1000s of jobs lost. This was during the Obama administration, Obama even went out there. And there was a case where the federal government came in and the state government on the back of the federal government to give a lot of money for job retraining up-skilling and re-skilling.

Jeff Selingo:

For many of these adults who never went to college, so there is a government incentive, but what happened is with De Moines Area Community College found is that many of these students started and they didn't finish. So they had money to come back to college. The college had an incentive, a financial incentive to serve them. But the market they were trying to serve was the wrong market.

Jeff Selingo:

They were trying to serve unemployed people who needed job ASAP with the two year degree that would take two years to earn. And you would have to go to school when you wanted to be at work. And so fewer than 10% of students were even enrolled after a year. So what De Moines Area Community College said instead "Well, we have all these students out there who we know need jobs. We have all these employers out there looking for workers." So they went to the employers, they said, "What do you need?" And the employer said, "Well, we need all these jobs now. And we need these jobs, other jobs in six months and." They got the list of skillsets. Say there were 30 skillsets. They broke them down into smaller increments. And they said, okay, we are going to create a course that that is two weeks long and get you hired.

Jeff Selingo:

And then we're going to create another course that is four weeks long and get you two months to have that job, and then so on and so forth. Right? So they broke what really would have been a two year degree because eventually all of this scaled up to it to a two-year degree and they got people in jobs and you don't want the completion rate of those programs were 90 plus percent. So in that case, there was no financial incentive. It was the market of students that said, this is what we want, and the college figured that out and serve them. So I think that to me if coming out of this pandemic, there's a huge market of students that has a particular need and colleges are smart enough to serve them with that opportunity. I think that could be an acceleration potentially to this.

Michael Horn:

I mean, that would be exciting Jeff.

Jeff Selingo:

So Michael, on our last episode, we asked for listener questions on the Future U page on Twitter, on LinkedIn, or by emailing us@futureupodcastatgmail.com, it's a regular feature we're going to be adding to Future U our only request is that you tell us who you are so we can give you a nice big shout out here. I say that because I got an email from a listener with an address I didn't recognize that I want to leave us with today and the person didn't leave their name.

Jeff Selingo:

So thank you to whoever that was. And they asked us this question, right? We ended our last show by asking our two guests or the two journalists we had on about stories that we're not talking about. And this listener wanted in turn that question to us. So quickly what story do you think we're not talking about enough these days.

Michael Horn:

So I'm not going to be able to do it in the one or two word ways that Melissa and Kirk did, which was brilliant. But my answer on that is regional publics and community colleges in particular are about to really be in the limelight with this new administration. And are they getting the outcomes for their students? And if not, why not? What about you Jeff

Jeff Selingo:

Leadership in higher education? And whether it's really prepared for this moment? I think most college leaders kind of came up through a much more stable period in higher ed. I think boards are a lot less patient with leaders than they have been in the past. And I'm not quite sure we have a good match between the leaders we need in this moment and the leaders we're getting in this moment. And I don't think we're talking enough about that in our coverage. So that's all we have time for now on this episode, please keep those questions coming on, Twitter, on Facebook, on LinkedIn, and by emailing us. Thanks to Michelle Weiss for joining us today and to you for listening until next time stay well.

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