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Ryan Craig: One Presentation Slide Away from Closing America’s Skills Gap

Ryan Craig is the Co-Founder and Managing Director of University Venture, investor and author of College Disrupted and A New U: Faster Cheaper Alternatives to College. He has dedicated his work to defying the status quo in higher education and creating new, nontraditional pathways from education to employment.

Ryan is somebody who I have looked up to for the last few years since he came onto my radar, and an inspiration for how he sees the future of education. He is fascinating, incredibly intellectual, and somebody who is at the forefront of change in higher education. Ryan’s insights and perspectives in line with how education can be shifted, should be shifted, and changed over the long haul is invigorating. Ryan’s journey will undoubtedly continue to evolve and expand to impact the next generation of people who engage in the education and labor space.

Takeaways

  1. With experience, you’re going to have a better sense of direction as to what kind of applied skills they want to gain and where they want to go.
  2. Human behavior is changing, and so is higher education.
  3. Work with management that can execute. You can have the greatest idea, strategy, or timing in the world but with the wrong team and poor execution, you go nowhere.

Transcript:

Bryan Wish: [00:00:01] Ryan, welcome to the One Away Show.

Ryan Craig: [00:00:04] Thanks, Bryan, great to be here.

Bryan Wish: [00:00:06] Absolutely. I’m following you a while, as I mentioned before, the show and our chat, and I’m excited, really excited for you to be here today with everything you’re working on. Tell us, what’s the one away moment that you want to share with us?

Ryan Craig: [00:00:20] Well, it’s great. I mean, it’s you know, when you contacted me, the moment was obvious. I didn’t have to think for more than a second about it because it became the foundation for everything I’m doing now and what we’re doing as a firm in terms of our investment strategy. I was about five years ago and I just published my first book, which was called College Disrupted: The Great Unbundling of Higher Education.

And as usual, when you have a book, you’re asked to come and give talks. And I have a little PowerPoint that I made. And this one talk was in Portland, Oregon. It was for one of the large sorts of traditional industry associations for public and state colleges and universities. And there are a couple of hundred presidents and provosts there from public institutions. And one of the slides I put up, I said, look, you know, one of the big paradigm shifts in higher education is that 20 years ago, if you’d surveyed young people and you asked them why they were interested in post-secondary education and why they were applying to or enrolling in a college or university, only about half of them would have said that it was primarily due to some career goal or job goal or income goal.

The other half a dozen other answers, but only about half of them were kind of economic-related today. When you ask that question in survey after survey 92, 93 percent of respondents say it’s about the job, it’s about the career. And there are a couple of reasons for that. One is that the cost of college and the concomitant student loan debt are just so high. The second is that there are lots of students who in the last 10, 15 years have come out of college who have not had great employment outcomes. And the result is that you have a very pragmatic generation of students enrolling in these programs. So I call that the employment imperative.

So, in a world where the employment imperative reigns, who should you be worried about colleges and universities as your competition? And so I said, stop worrying about these guys for a decade or more. There had been this kind of war against for-profit universities. And so stop worrying about the University of Phoenix and, you know, all these other schools, they’re not the ones with an inside track on helping their graduates get good jobs at all. But start worrying about these guys. And I put up a slide with the largest staffing firms in the US, Manpower alleges Adecco, Randstad. And I said these are the ones with relationships with thousands of clients and they’re providing talent to them today. They’re probably going to be more likely your competitors for prospective students who care about getting jobs first and foremost. And so I didn’t get much of a reaction.

But after the presentation, this gentleman came up to me named Ashwin Barath, who was the CEO of he introduced himself as the CEO and co-founder of a software developer staffing firm just outside D.C. called Motivation. And he said, look, your presentation resonated with me because we are trying to, you know, we have hundreds of clients and we have dozens of new job racks every day from our clients asking, seeking new software developers. And we can’t find them. We can’t find them. We may fill 20 percent of the job racks that we see. Can you help? Can you help us? You come from the education world. Can you help us develop our new talent? You know, is that possible?

It was kind of like you know, I like to say it’s like chocolate in your peanut butter moment because we came from the education world. He came from the staffing world. We knew how to create talent. He had the solution for the hardest part of the skills gap to bridge, which is that any connection to the client. Right. As a college or university, you know, your relationships with employers are fairly loose and tenuous. Right. Like, yes, you have career services, but it’s not a deep relationship at all that the employer test might come to recruit on campus.

But it’s probably one recruiter and you’re having the relationship through human resources recruiting. You certainly don’t have a deep relationship with the managers in the organization who need work and talent, and that’s exactly what this company did have because they were staffing experienced talent into those managers regularly. So that one conversation turned into a major investment for four university ventures in motivation. We changed the name within a few months to Ravicher, which was a much better name for a young person looking to start their career. It kind of sounds a bit like Accenture.

The model was what was beautiful, which is we would set up shop Ravicher would partner within the department with 20 colleges and universities, City University of New York, University of South Florida, the University of Texas at Arlington, West Virginia University, and a bunch of others. And we would create training tracks for those at those institutions. So for new and recent graduates, you would come in and you get trained and it’s not like a coding boot camp where you’d pay to get trained. Quite the contrary. We would hire you, Ravicher would hire you from day one. You’d be a Ravicher employee, you’d have benefits and you’d be trained and you’d be trained on the specific tech stack that Ravicher client was seeking.

So that one client, I’m not going to name it, requires 50 developers trained in that company’s dev-ops environment. Ravicher would launch a new cohort recruit for that cohort screen candidates based on cognitive skills, the screen on technical skills. You probably needed to have Java all ready to come into that cohort screen on diversity because the client would value diversity, the ability to diversify. They’re probably not a very diverse existing tech workforce. And we would hire start the training and then at the end of the three months, those new consultants would then go to work for that, for that client. And that model eliminates the frictions that are really at the heart of the skills gap. Why do we have, you know, tens of millions of people who are kind of at a position relative to what employers are seeking in terms of the specific sets of digital skills and business skills they’re looking for?

Primarily, it’s the cost of up-skilling and it’s the uncertainty of the employment outcome. If you could eliminate both of those things, you’d have millions of people going out and getting these skills. That’s education friction. That’s why we have this inertia on the candidate’s side. But there’s also friction on the employer side. We call hiring friction, which is the reduced propensity of employers to hire candidates for a role where we wear them, where that candidate hasn’t done that job previously. And it’s the natural byproduct of the increased cost of making a bad hire and increased churn at the entry-level, 50 percent of new college grads going into a job or go into that job within two years.

So most employers have kind of gotten out of the business of entry-level training. They want the perfect candidate ready to go, ready to be productive on day one, trained in their tech stack or off, and they won’t hire that. That can’t. So this model, the Ravicher model, really not only limited the education friction but also the hiring friction, because Ravicher would remain the employer of record for up to two years, allowing that client to try the talent before they had to make a hiring decision to try before they buy. And it worked brilliantly.

Within a couple of years, Ravicher was through putting thousands of new consultants annually to its clients. And we would call this model sort of the outsourced apprenticeship. For decades in America, policymakers have struggled with the question of how to expand apprenticeships beyond the building and construction trades into sort of high growth areas, tech, professional services, health care, financial services. And we’ve always looked to those and employers.

Verizon is the American Express of the world, right? What are they going to launch their apprenticeship programs? The answer is you’ll be waiting a long time for them because they have one hundred more pressing priorities. But you know who will establish apprenticeship programs and start at scale business companies? They can build a business around talent provision to their clients. What we’re doing now, at what’s called The Chief Partners and Achieve is focused. Its first fund, which is called Putting America Back to Work, is focused entirely on building these we call employer down models, as opposed to educational models into business services companies that are operating in skill gap sectors across technology and health care. So that’s what we’re doing.

And it all came from that one chocolate in your peanut butter encounter.

After a speech in Portland, of all places.

Bryan Wish: [00:10:07] Super interesting, so Ryan will use something I just kind of clarify I’m going to hone in on is you kind of had this chocolate in your peanut butter moment when you saw how well you were doing on the education side, kind of connection with the staffing side and how to bring that all together. And you said to me before the call how you’ve taken that same model. You’ve kind of been able to expand it out into every part of what you’re doing. And so with that in the work that you’re doing, I think you’re noticing a decline in the higher education of what’s the value of it saying more and more people want the outcome, be ready for college, but there’s a gap in getting there.

So, the more that you have you’re looking to scale with more people may be seeking alternatives from higher education. How is your model adapting to the interest of human behavior and what people are seeking in the current landscape?

Ryan Craig: [00:11:05] Yeah, well, I think it perfectly addresses it so. But the title of my last book was called Faster and Cheaper Alternatives to College. And I think that’s what needs to happen. We need faster and cheaper pathways to good jobs in this country. Right. You cannot be the case that, you know, we have 11 million newly unemployed Americans since February. Right. And the majority of those are young or minority workers. And it cannot be the case that we’re telling them, look, if you want to have a shot at getting a good job, which is, you know, I define a fifty thousand annualized salary benefits, full-time sort of multiple career paths. And those jobs are almost all digital.

You need to have some digital skills to do them. But if our message to those millions of newly unemployed Americans is, you know, your only solution is to complete another degree, whether your first bachelor’s degree or a master’s degree and take on tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt, to have a shot at a good job like that’s not a good message is something we desperately need faster and cheaper alternatives to good jobs in this in this country. And that’s what these models provide because there’s no risk to the candidate you’re hired, you earn as you learn, as we like to say. And it’s also beneficial for older workers who were displaced and laid-off manufacturing workers.

Right. I’d like to tell the story of how in Janesville, Wisconsin, a decade ago, Paul Ryan’s hometown, they closed the GM plant and there were these three thousand displaced auto workers who were kind of put on a bus and sent over to the community college and said, well, now enroll in a degree program. And not surprisingly, only about a third of them completed the program there because when’s the last time they were in a classroom? And is that an environment that they’re adapted to or inspired to be performing?

And so I think the answer is to hire them, but them. And that’s exactly what these apprenticeship models do, pay them. Don’t ask them to pay. And more fundamentally, I think if you look, we have so many unfilled jobs here, six million unfilled jobs in America right now. And most of them are digital. And if we are asking someone to pay up to a skill in a skill gap area, then someone’s got either a broken or an unimaginative business model because there is a willing payor for that upskilling. And that’s the employer who can’t find that talent today, particularly with what this administration has done with H-1B visas, which used to kind of be the safety valve for this.

We need to find the talent here in America and it’s not being produced by our existing post-secondary institutions. And it’s certainly not going to be produced by those and employers themselves. It will be produced by companies that can build a business around providing talent to their clients. And that’s exactly what we’re focused on.

Bryan Wish: [00:14:27] Fantastic. Understand your model. And I think it’s smart. And when people have asked me what I was thinking about when you’re talking, is, you know, when I think of my career path out of college, I’m always thinking of getting jobs that provide relationships, skills, and pay the bills. And I could go learn from. And I do think you’re right. Where, historically, a lot of people have had to go into debt to get good skills as opposed to getting paid to get skills and can get to shift in thinking as well where things are going.

Great point with now with your new company, Geeves Partners, maybe share about what you’re doing there, the types of companies you’re looking to work with and partner with investing and how you’re bringing that knowledge you have that you’re sharing into the framework of those relationships to help them scale and grow?

Ryan Craig: [00:15:23] Yeah, I can start with the first one we just made. We just closed our first investment in the acquisition of a healthcare I.T. solutions company called Optimum Health Care. It and Optimum is one of the leading solutions providers for electronic medical records systems in hospitals. So these are the core patient unit records systems. So if you go to the doctor and the doctor’s not paying attention to you and just typing away, they’re typing into the EMR platform, which is probably epic, which is the leading electronic medical records platform in the US.

And there are over 50 thousand unfilled epic jobs today and probably another fifty thousand open EMR jobs for other EMR platforms. And it’s about we’re not talking about data entry. We’re talking about implementing the system into the hospital. We’re talking about configuring it. So it works for that hospital system and we’re talking about integrating it with the hundreds of other platforms that the hospital may have. And that is work that requires a good deal of training and experience on the epic platform.

Unfortunately, there’s not a single college or university in the US that provides training on epic year-end of story. If you haven’t worked at EPIC or if you haven’t attended one of the training programs they held sporadically in Madison, Wisconsin, you’re not an epic certified analyst and you’re not capable of configuring or integrating these systems. So this company Optimum is a trusted partner. They’re one of the largest implementation and integration solutions providers. And we acquired control of the company a few months ago. And we are now weeks away from launching the first EPIK apprenticeship program in the US in partnership with the University of North Florida companies based in Jacksonville.

So this is the Large Research University in Jacksonville, Florida, University of North Florida. And we’re recruiting the first cohort of epic analysts who then, following three months of training, be transitioned on to real projects working for optimum with the expectation that after two years to go to work for one of the hospital systems where they’re completing a project and for the hospitals, it’s super exciting because they cannot find this talent today.

Talent, to the extent it exists, very high-priced, experienced consultants who will kind of turn away within months of completing a project. So very hard to keep that talent in-house on board. And Optimism’s new value proposition to its clients is not only what we complete the implementation or configuration or integration of your EMR platform, but once that project is complete, you can keep that talent, you can keep the talent behind. And that’s, you know, what no one has done. So we’re super excited for what that means for our clients and the growth of optimum.

We’re super excited at the fact that we are going to create pathways for thousands of young Americans to work in health care. They are pathways that didn’t exist previously. If you want it to become the CTO of a hospital system, what’s that pathway? What’s the pathway today for going to work in health care out of college? I mean, your guess is as good as mine. Like you’re not going to get hired by a hospital, probably like maybe you get hired by a consulting firm and Accenture.

But that sort of thing, you probably need to have tech skills to do that. Where do you get those tech skills? So it is a chicken and egg type problem. This we cut through that chicken and egg problem by sourcing and hiring high potential candidates, high cognitive skills, good problem-solving skills, communication skills. Some tech skills are probably a healthcare background.

Life sciences back, or maybe they were a biology major in college and we trained them in training. And it’s needed at a time when most American employers have kind of disinvested an entry-level training. They want the perfect candidate served up on a silver platter, ready to go, ready to be productive on day one, or they just simply don’t hire. And so that’s where we’re filling the gap with these new we call them outsourced apprenticeship models.

Bryan Wish: [00:19:48] Now they’re really. Fascinating, almost reminds me of coding and the need for skilled developers, you know, 10 years ago and the emphasis that was put there now for you, I have to imagine maybe I’m imagining maybe I’m wrong on this. I’m imagining that you know, how are you identifying the industries that have the skills gap and then finding the companies who are going to go fill that gap and then applying your Marletta? Because I imagine there’s some, you know, really interesting things that are done there for you to be able to do that.

Ryan Craig: [00:20:26] Yeah, well, look, it’s not, it’s probably anyone who reads the newspaper would be able to identify most of the skill gap sectors because they’re in the news regularly. So it’s data science and analytics. It’s cybersecurity. It’s large platforms like Epic Salesforce and others. There are a whole host of health care areas as well, where we’re seeing a skills gap. And with three months of last-mile training, you can take someone and make them available at a relatively high rate and create that pathway to new employment.

So, we have teams that are hard at work in each of these sectors and networking and talking to founders and meeting companies and meeting executives and trying to figure out if a given platform is going to be a good one for executing this strategy. But typically, the reception is really strong because founders are seeing the effects of the skills gap themselves. They can’t find the talent themselves. And they certainly recognize that their clients are seeing that skills gap. They just never thought of themselves as a solution to that problem that their clients have because they’ve never thought of themselves as being in the talent creation or training or education.

Because I’ll tell you, when I go to Staffing Industry Association meetings and conferences, when we used to go to conferences, I look forward to that, to go into another actual conference as opposed to a virtual conference. But what I used to go we’d walk around the hallways and people kind of point at us and see like those guys, like they’re doing something different because no one had ever tried to stay. The staffing industry is kind of all about sort of fishing in the same small pool, like literally a traditional IT staffing firm.

You know, they see a job rack from a client. Probably five other firms are seeing that same job rack at the same time. And they’re going on LinkedIn using all their sources to try to find candidates who meet that specific tech stack that the client is looking for. And oftentimes you’ll have a candidate who’s called within minutes by several I.T. staffing firms saying, I’ve got an opportunity for you. Would you sign up with us on it so that we can present you to the client? And it’s literally like this. It’s like the equivalent of like six people surrounding a small pond and they’re all catching the same fish. So let’s make the pond bigger. And by making the pond bigger, I think we are addressing one of the core issues that is contributing to a lot of the economic and social, and even political challenges we’re facing as a country, which is the lack of economic opportunity where the pathways to good jobs.

If we had tens of thousands of these programs around the country today, I think we’d be in a much better place than basically saying it’s college. College is the one pathway. And by the way, once you complete college, you’re going to have a set of skills that don’t align particularly well with what employers are seeking. And you have to give half the time you’ll be underemployed in your first job. And if you’re underemployed in your first job, two-thirds of the time you’ll be underemployed five years later and half the time you’ll be underemployed a decade later. So it’s not good. This needs to change. And it starts with creating these new, faster, and cheaper pathways to good jobs.

Bryan Wish: [00:23:41] I think what you’re doing right now is just the model identifying and addressing the needs of the market and bringing and finding companies to help serve that market and how that addresses that. I think what you just said, the social and economic issues on the macro scale, I mean, there’s so much benefit and I got chills when you were talking about it and just. Yeah, fascinating. Ryan, I think would be a good segue way here is to kind of dive into your story, if you don’t mind, more at the beginning stages. What got you into higher ed and what has kept you in it, which does seem to be a lifelong career. I know you start businesses within it, but you’ve been very focused on this space for 20 plus years. And I was curious where this all started.

Ryan Craig: [00:24:32] Yeah, I’ll tell you exactly when it started. I was in law school. I was probably twenty-six years old and I met an entrepreneur by the name of Peter Price, who was working. And these were the very early days of online education. But he was pitching a concept for a global online university that initially partners were Cambridge University and Columbia University. He was trying to marry them with NBC, where NBC would do the marketing and we’d enroll tens of thousands of students from around the world in online courses and ultimately degrees from Cambridge and Columbia. And that that never took off. But ultimately, it led to a job offer from Columbia when I graduated from law school, where I essentially went to work.

The executive vice provost of Columbia to help them build sort of new online learning ventures in the 90s, this was sort of the heyday of the dot-com era. So it was very, very early. And that was that that business was called fathom. Folks who have been around the sector for a long time will remember it. Columbia spent a lot of money trying to build a sort of an online platform for knowledge without much of a business model behind it, unfortunately. And I did that for a couple of years and then was recruited by a big private equity firm in New York, was called by a headhunter. It said Warburg Pincus is looking for someone to try to make heads or tails of their education investments.

It turns out that they had several senior partners sort of making one-off education investments for the firm but without really much of a strategy or thesis around them. One came from technology, one came from health care. And I like to say that at a certain point in your professional journey if you are successful enough, you’re probably going to be presented with the opportunity to invest in some sort of K-12 business plan that just shows with, you know, if we only if we achieve 10 percent market penetration in K-12, this is going to be one hundred million dollar business because it’s such a huge, huge market.

And those kinds of what those companies were. And I got the job and I tried to reorient our investing strategy away from K-12, which is where the really hard market, really hard to make make money selling to K-12 schools and school districts to higher education, where there was a proven model at the time for making money, which was for-profit colleges and universities. So that’s where I got my start in my sort of signature investment was helping to found a company called Bridgepoint Education, which from 2004 to 2009 was probably the fastest growing university in American history, went from effectively zero to ninety thousand students, and went public.

The company went public in 2009. And so I had that experience. But I also saw the limitations of that model, which is to say, you know, at the two thousand for the idea of being able to complete your bachelor’s degree in your pajamas on the weekend at home, that was pretty revolutionary. There are 40 million Americans with some college credit, but no degree where that’s an incredibly useful, useful product. After a couple of years and once we had 10, 20, 30 of these online universities, and these online universities began recruiting the kind more deeply into students who may not have been prepared for the academic program, and completion rates began to fall.

The limitations of that model became clear to me. And that was the genesis of university ventures, which was we were going to build a private equity firm that would invest in the next generation of higher education-focused businesses. And that was it. And I was successful in raising my first funds in 2011. And the rest is history. We’ve you know, I just think the only other sort of key point is kind of where I started today, which is kind of 2014 – 2015, where we began to see the economic impact of the Great Recession on millennials and seeing how millennials had fallen far behind prior generations on virtually every economic metric.

Looking at college affordability, but increasingly at employability and employment, which is how we sort of got into this question of the employment imperative at the beginning and looking for new models that would reduce frictions for both candidates and for employers.

Bryan Wish: [00:29:29] Super neat, just to go back into the story a bit for when you saw maybe the opportunity to kind of start your own company. What were the factors and variables then that, you know, there’s a wave to ride here to double down on launching your company.

Ryan Craig: [00:29:49] Yeah, well, it’s funny in retrospect. I think it’s hilarious because I think some of them as I was convincing the managing partners at Warburg Pincus to make that investment, I think one of their two objections. One is, you know, who’s going to care about this degree if it’s not from Harvard or Princeton or Cambridge? So there was a bit of leftism and a bit of a sense of lack of awareness that ninety ninety-five percent of Americans don’t go to those brand name elite schools and graduate from schools and.

Many people haven’t heard of and yet those degrees and credentials are valued by employers all around the country. So that took some educating in any other. The other sort of objection was, you know, well, look, there’s already the University of Phoenix online. They’re already out there and they have, I think, fifty thousand students at the time. So how big is this market going to be? How big is this online education thing going to be? And in retrospect, that seems ridiculous, utterly ridiculous. But that was an issue that we had in many ways. The Bridgepoint was kind of a knee to fly.

We had a distinct strategy and a couple of distinct strategies that made us different. But fundamentally, we were writing about the online education boom and the ability to complete your degree in your pajamas at nights, on weekends, as you saw fit. And like I said, there are tens of millions of Americans for whom that was useful at the beginning. So look. And then the key factor was finding a management team that was capable of executing.

You can have the greatest idea in the world, great strategy, great timing, and you have the wrong team and poor execution and you go nowhere. So it was all about finding Andrew Clark and Crispen and Rocky Schang and, you know, that founding team that was able to take advantage of the opportunity and recruit, you know, tens of thousands of students to these programs and scale the infrastructure and program delivery. And that got the company where it was.

Bryan Wish: [00:32:11] Yeah, that’s all about the management team and getting the right people in the right rules to ignite the company and that you saw, I think so early, the ability to change the infrastructure of the current landscape. We’re involved with Columbia right out of the gate. I want to close on one more question that I think is interesting and then we’ll share where people can find you and your books and, you know, thank you personally. I’m going to Segway to talk to the company after college for Chiros, which is an investment plan.

They run all their content community and are a big deal to the fund. And then there’s also said that partnering with companies as well as access to talent, that by nature of where we are, we recruited at the top universities in the country because the thesis was that that’s ideas and that’s what the greater opportunity. I think also, you know, you worked at Columbia, you went to Yale, you were also part of the elite school network, which I’m sure has come with different privileges, which is, you know, which is great. I’m sure you worked very hard.

But what’s interesting to me is like your model, right, is all about the banking hire. And I mean, I want to say that maybe fully, but there’s a different pathway for people that may not be a good fit. So I guess that circle, right? Yeah. How did that happen? Because you know

Ryan Craig: [00:33:44] I think I say here’s what I would say. I would say there are colleges and universities in this country where you should want to sort of pay your left arm to attend. And I think I had the privilege to attend, had the privilege of attending one of them. But there aren’t hundreds of them to a degree. I think that for decades, American families were kind of under the illusion that a degree is a degree, is a degree, and maybe Yale charges thirty thousand. And I’m not going to name a university, but a blank university, a nonselective university will charge, you know, 70 percent or 80 percent of that.

But the reality is that that experience at that school is not, you know, 70 or 80 percent of an elite university experience. It’s a fact. It’s a fraction of that. And that, unfortunately, you’ve had millions of students going through those schools, paying tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars, taking on a lot of student loan debt, and achieving very poor employment outcomes as a result. So I think we already have a bifurcated system.

You have students who are going to great selective elite schools and it’s a small fraction of the population. And then you have everyone else and all these other schools are kind of pricing their programs under that umbrella, the pricing umbrella that those elite schools provide. But I like to use the analogy like the Olive Garden, right. Olive Garden. They are winless and they have tablecloths sometimes. But, it doesn’t mean it’s a fine Italian restaurant that’s being like 80 percent of what the top Italian restaurant charges for their entrees. And they said because it’s not the same. So that’s where I come up with this concept of unbundling.

You know, these are the sort of nonselective universities that continue to charge exorbitant tuition plus fees, plus room and board for their tuition for their degree bundle. And it’s coming apart now because this year most of these schools are still charging the same amount for a product that is not a bundle, but rather a series of online or Zoome courses. So students are not getting the benefit of that sort of full, full college experience. And I think that the blinders are off. And I think that we’re going to have many more families questioning the value of what they’re receiving from these nonselective universities.

So I contend that millions of young people would be better served by getting to that first job through a faster and cheaper pathway. And I’m not arguing for less postsecondary education in aggregate or per capita in the global knowledge economy. That would be economic suicide. But what I am suggesting is that once you have your foot on the first rung of a career ladder through a faster and cheaper pathway to that good first job, which is probably a digital job no with no debt, then you’re gonna be able to look around and ascertain what’s secondary, what tertiary pathway you’re going to pursue to gain those critical thinking skills, cognitive skills, problem-solving skills that are Ustad.

Simply today being gained through a bachelor’s degree program, but as with everything, right, we used to buy enterprise software and you’re probably too young to remember enterprise software installations, but now we have SaaS platforms where you kind of buy what you need when you need it. And that’s where we’re moving into higher education. It shouldn’t have to be all you can eat in one sitting and then be done by the age of twenty-three or twenty-four.

It should be what you need when you need it. And good. First jobs now primarily are looking for a combination of digital skills and soft skills, and there are quicker and faster ways to achieve and equip young people with those skills. But we need to make sure that we have the secondary and tertiary pathways developed so that they’re able to gain those cognitive skills, critical thinking skills, and problem-solving skills later on in their career. And once they do, they’re going to have a better sense of direction as to what kind of applied skills they want to gain and where they want to go. And it’s just going to be more efficient in the education of the human capital market.

Bryan Wish: [00:38:16] Absolutely, in what you said, though, just to go back to the beginning and carry that through. You said people should know that there is a point in time where maybe you should pay a lifetime for an education because of the specialization, which, you know, if you have the means and ability.

Ryan Craig: [00:38:32] You know, exactly if you know, if you like it in my book, I say, look, there’s kind of a matrix of selectivity and affordability, right? If you get into a selective school and you can afford it, like there’s no better choice, go, go. But you know that that’s probably five percent of American families who meet that criteria. And I use the Lumina Foundation sort of affordability metric as the rule of ten, which means that the vast majority of American families, these schools, even lots of public schools are not at all. They’re asking you to take on way too much debt relative to the likely return is going to be a shakeout here. And that shakeout is going to come when tens and then hundreds of thousands of young Americans are beginning to pursue faster, cheaper alternative pathways to good, good first jobs.

Bryan Wish: [00:39:31] To hit the nail on the head and just really appreciate you being here today, sharing your story or you’re one away moment with us and just knowing this industry inside now, I think it’s going to be great for our listeners to hear more on the young professional side. Twenty to thirty-five. And I think we’ll just get a lot out of this there on education. Do you want to say something?

Ryan Craig: [00:39:56] No, It’s great. Really good talking to you. And I’m going to go have my next runaway moment, which is I’m going to run away and have some lunch.

Bryan Wish: [00:40:04] But where can people find you? Check out your books. What’s the best way to get to you?

Ryan Craig: [00:40:09] Yeah, so I write regularly in Forbes and inside higher education books. You can Google me on, on, on, and find me on Amazon. And I write a bi-weekly newsletter called The Gap Letter, and you can subscribe for free at Gap letter.com

Bryan Wish: [00:40:26] Great. Well, I can confirm that Ryan’s writing is very eloquent and to the point, and very informative. So check him out. Ryan, thanks for being here and we’ll talk to you soon.

Ryan Craig: [00:40:38] Bryan, really fun. Thanks a lot.

One Away Podcast
Leah Walsh

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