Paul LeBlanc, Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) President and CEO, recently joined Kenzie Academy from SNHU in a livestream event. The conversation began with the Kenzie Academy programs acquisition, which enabled Kenzie to continue its mission of providing wider access to tech education. He also discussed microcredentials and their effect on today’s educational landscape and ChatGPT’s potential in the workplace!
Watch Paul LeBlanc share his thoughts during our livestream event below:
Looking Back at the Kenzie Academy Acquisition
According to LeBlanc, for SNHU, acquiring Kenzie Academy came down to 3 important factors: the way the educational landscape was evolving, the value of tech education, and the concept of microcredentials as a means for upskilling or reskilling.
“Kenzie sort of fit all three. It was a place that was getting really good at understanding what it means to offer shorter-term credentials. It was changing people’s lives and doing so with people that a lot of other providers weren’t serving very well.”
Microcredentials as an Accessible Educational Tool
What is the value of a microcredential for the learner? Why is a certificate essential in the modern educational system? For SNHU, the bigger picture becomes clear when 2 and 4-year degree programs are evaluated next to their microcredential counterparts.
“Let’s remind ourselves that the ability to go into a 2 or 4-year degree program is itself a function of privilege. There are a lot of people who just don’t have that time. When I wrote Students First, I think the main takeaway for me was the degree to which time is a question of privilege. And yet we’ve built a whole education system based on the ability to check out of the world for a chunk of time that a lot of people just don’t have available to them. So short-term credentials are really critically important. And we see the demand signals.”
Dipping In and Out of Education
Microcredentials can help people upskill or reskill in a manner that can be more casual than a traditional educational path. For instance, if a promotion opportunity arises, learners can “dip into” education to reskill, and “back out” to continue climbing the professional ladder. It’s important this approach can work in synchrony with the needs of every learner, no matter how long their respective educational path is.
“When we talk about people dipping back in, it’s not for a degree. We need to be prepared for everything from ‘I need two days, I need two weeks, I need two months, or I need two years,’”
“But the idea is we have to be stackable. Because I do think we don’t want to be in a society in which there are other people who are privileged and have degrees and everyone else has a micro by itself. Micros are really valuable and powerful, but let’s build them so they fit people’s lives and learning journeys differently. So it’s an ‘and’ not a ‘but.’”
ChatGPT is a divisive topic with some saying its prowess can potentially become a threat to professionals across different industries while others see the chatbot as a useful tool. For LeBlanc, ChatGPT is compelling and can potentially offer opportunities we’ll have to navigate through as the technology continues evolving.
“We know it comes up with crazy stuff. And it’s going to get better and better and better. That said, it’s going to get better by human use.”
“I do think it’s going to raise these very interesting questions about what do we need to teach? What jobs are going to go away? What jobs become more important? We are day one on a long, long learning journey. But rather than say, ‘We’re going to ban it.’ I would play with it. Just play. Learn what it’s good at. Learn what it’s not good at. Learn how you have to change your game.”
Certificate Credibility in Today’s Hiring Landscape
Now more than ever, certificates are taken more seriously by companies looking to hire. While there are different factors at play in this shift, LeBlanc shed light on one particularly important one.
“You’ve got almost 10 million open jobs and very low unemployment rates. So when there is high unemployment, employers can get lazy and simply use the degree as a screening device. In 2011, 50% of college grads were either unemployed or underemployed. What we saw were all these articles about how there are jobs that absolutely don’t require a college degree, and yet people are putting them in as one of the requirements. ” he said.
“Now we’re in the flip where people are struggling to fill jobs. Maybe we don’t need that degree, after all. Can you find some other way to demonstrate what you can do? And the beauty of what Kenzie does is that it’s performance-based. So when you are releasing people out into the workforce, you do so knowing they’ve demonstrated the ability to do the work that employers need doing. That’s music to an employer’s ears.”
Will You Take on Tech?
As LeBlanc puts it, “Shorter term learning of all kinds is just becoming part of what we do.” So, if you’re considering retooling your existing tech career or ready to take on a brand new one, Kenzie Academy from SNHU can help you take your first steps as you lay the groundwork for an exciting future. Apply today and get started.
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