It’s Been Nice – Time for Education Accelerated
I'm leaving The Nice Center this month to build a career-focused education program that helps students get hired, get promoted, and get started creating their future.
Where It Started
In early 2019, I was sitting in a café asking a simple question:
How can education improve our communities?
I saw the potential of entrepreneurship for all. Empowered students could build solutions to problems in their communities if they learned how to do it and believed that they could do it. That was birth of The Nice Center.
In less than three years, despite a global pandemic, we introduced entrepreneurship to nearly 20,000 students across campus and the state. We created a foundation to help students build, in both high school and college.
Launching Education for All
Entrepreneurship is one essential piece to create the future. However, we know that only .4% of our state are entrepreneurs. We need to help students craft the future but also work and thrive in that new world.
That’s why today, in the same café, I have an expansive answer to the question: How can education improve our communities?
That answer is: education for all.
Not just any education, but vertically integrated, career-oriented education. This education is designed for the new reality that learning is a life-long activity.
The world is changing too rapidly to go to college in your early 20’s and be prepared for the rest of your life. Many need to be re-skilled.
Over 35 million students have attended some university and not finished. They need to up-skill.
Millions have experience that could be combined with new training to shape the future. They need to certify their skills.
Our communities have the people and potential to shape the future. To do so, we need to continually educate, train, and connect students of all ages.
I’m excited to work on these challenges by launching an accelerated learning program with the University of Jamestown.
We call it UJ Accelerated.
With in-person locations in North Dakota and Arizona, UJ Accelerated will work locally and globally, online and offline, to accelerate learning in the areas of healthcare, technology, business, leadership and education.
I’m excited to share a bit of my vision for this work. Like any good entrepreneur, we will iterate and test to continually improve our offering based on feedback from people like you.
Admittedly, we need your help to make this a success. If you want to follow the journey or learn how to get involved, subscribe here for occasional email updates.
Education should not be an isolated activity. It should center on four core areas.
1. Credit for Prior Learning
Recognizing prior experience identifies exactly what skills and knowledge students have and what students need to quickly improve. By accounting for previous professional, military, and/or educational experience, UJ Accelerated can show students the most efficient and impactful path to level up using education.
Offering a flexible format of short courses (~4 weeks) that can stack together into certificates (3-4 courses) and degrees, our programs are built to quickly combine experience with education to accelerate our students’ careers.
2. Career-Oriented Education
Our courses will be designed around three key areas, which I call the CUP method: community, understanding, and practice.
Community is built among students, peer supporters, teachers, and alumni.
Students work alongside classmates to provide feedback and positive peer pressure to increase completion rates. Typical massive online courses are completed by only 3-6% of students. By adding cohorts and a network of support, completion rates skyrocket, with up to 96% in some cohort-based courses. A community improves learning and builds a network where alumni can continue to learn and connect with future students.
The network extends to peer supporters in the classes. A cadre of peer supporters who work in industry provide support to students along their journey. Whether it is learning the course material, working on a project for a business, or interviewing for a job, peer supporters help students accelerate their learning and careers.
Students study concepts used in the workplace with curriculum developed with input from industry. Students learn by doing, gaining deep understanding in a short sprint format.
Teachers of these courses are experts in their fields, connecting students with jobs and real-world problems to solve. We find the best teachers for every course regardless of where they live or work, developing relevant understanding in emerging industries.
Students build a portfolio in their courses that translates to professional opportunities. Together with their classmates, they show employers what they’re capable of.
Industry mentors also meet with students. This helps students practice and develop their skills in the real-world. It also gives businesses a chance to “try before you hire”. Our industry partners make our students better and have early access to hire talent. (You can join them here!)
3. Professional Network
Many people find career opportunities thanks to their professional network. That’s why UJ Accelerated is dedicated to building an active network of colleagues and collaborators. Courses are built around communities, but the community continues to add value after courses are complete. Alumni continue to have access to professionals and one another for future collaboration and opportunities.
We anticipate that many students will get as much value from the community as they will from the knowledge. Plus, this community will help us continue to identify new topics and skills that should be added to our program lineup.
For many, education is a pathway to a job and a lifestyle. It can also be a pathway to making a difference in their community. Our program doesn’t end with the coursework. Instead, we provide credentials recognized by industry leaders and then support students to get hired and get a raise with their new skills.
At UJ Accelerated, we want to align incentives with students and businesses. Students want to learn and earn new career opportunities. Employers want to find and hire great talent. Our goals need to be the same.
It’s not about enrollment or credits. It’s about up-skilling, re-skilling, and connecting students so they find jobs in high-growth fields. With a strong support system and collaborative relationship with businesses, we know that we will stand above the variety of education options.
How To Help
Building an accelerated learning program that matches the needs of the market requires constant collaboration and partnership with industry. That’s where you can come in.
Over the next six months, we aim to launch six new programs to train, up-skill, and re-skill students for high-demand jobs and skills. Most importantly, these students will build networks among their classmates and industry experts.
Do you or someone you know work in a business that has workforce needs? Are you interested in mentoring and working with students trying to work in your field?
Let us know. Just click here, and we will be in touch.
Let’s work together to continue to reimagine the future of education. Together we can pursue education for all to truly improve our communities.