TL; DR: If your career path, job skills, or employment status have got you down, General Assembly (GA) has got your back. The educational institution is on a mission to transform the lives of individuals and business teams across the globe by focusing on in-demand skills in data, UX design, coding, and product management. The ultimate goal is to equip students and employees with a well-rounded technical foundation for whatever task the future brings — whether they’re pursuing app development and hosting or data science.
Unemployment in the U.S. soared during the initial months of the COVID-19 outbreak, jumping from 3.8% in February to 13.0% in May
If you don’t find those numbers deeply concerning on their own, consider this: According to the Pew Research Center, unemployment rates peaked at a relatively lower 10.6% after the Great Recession had gripped the nation for two entire years.
Despite the magnitude of these difficult times, quarantines and layoffs don’t necessarily lead people to rest on their laurels. Many professionals are finding there’s no better (or more critical) time than now to arm themselves with the job skills of the future — whether the goal is to design and host websites or become a data scientist.
At General Assembly (GA), an educational institution designed to equip entrepreneurs and business professionals with practical technology skills, admissions have skyrocketed. Since campuses closed in March, the school has moved 100% of its offerings online.
“We are seeing people taking advantage of this time to reskill themselves, and more people who are unemployed are coming to us than ever before,” said Liz Simon, Co-Chief Operating Officer at GA. “Enrollment in our online courses grew 303% between Q2 of 2019 and Q2 of 2020. Enrollment in our free and paid classes, events, and bite-size offerings are up 243% over this period last year.”
GA specializes in education and career transformation, focusing on the most relevant and in-demand job skills in data science, UX design, project management, and technology. Whether teaching via campuses in numerous countries throughout the world or offering online courses to support social distancing, the school’s goal is to prepare students for the jobs of the future.
Confronting the Skills Gap Through Premier Tech Education
GA was founded in 2011 by CEO Jake Schwartz, Adam Pritzker, Matthew Brimer, and Brad Hargreaves as a private education organization based in New York City.
At the time, much like our current situation, technology was changing how people work, and the rising costs of traditional higher education led to a declining ROI on college investments. Liz said there was also an apparent disconnect between the skills students learned in their degree programs and those required to thrive in the job force.
“In many ways, the moment we are in now mirrors the origins of GA, which was founded on the heels of the Great Recession,” Liz said. “Our founder’s vision was to deliver a faster, more cost-effective path for students to gain skills they could use to pursue meaningful careers.”
Liz told us that graduates with traditional educations in fields such as liberal arts began looking to learn new skills or pursue entirely new careers. Careers in software development, hosting and server management, data science, and related areas were in high demand.
“Flash forward a decade, and GA has grown to serve hundreds of thousands of students through a range of programming, from one-off workshops to accelerated learning through three-month intensive programs — and everything in between,” Liz said. “We offer people the opportunity to upskill and reskill, which is connected with job placement and career support.”
Removing Financial and Geographic Barriers to Industry Success
GA is committed to offering affordable and accessible education via financing options that ensure students have the support they need. The school works with employers and financial institutions to cover costs when possible. Immersive online programs allow students outside of metro areas to enjoy the same quality education as is offered on an in-person campus.
“GA has worked over the years to remove financial barriers so that students can pursue an education,” Liz told us. “Our Income Share Agreement and Career Impact Bond are two examples of this, as is the support that we provide to students throughout their journeys. That’s what really distinguishes GA today.”
The school also uses its global presence of more than 70,000 alumni and nearly 20,000 hiring partners to the benefit of students. In addition to courses tailored to employer needs, the school brings in industry professionals to serve as instructors, coaches, and mentors. This comprehensive network makes it easier for graduates to make the connections they need to find jobs and thrive in their careers.
“Our programs are designed to take people with little to no background and equip them with the skills they need to enter a job,” Liz said. “The goal is not to teach them every single programming language but to arm them with the skills they need to continue to learn as they’re on the job.”
It’s a smart move: Considering that individual companies always have a unique tech stack, hosting environment, and security requirements, there can be no such thing as a one-size-fits-all curriculum.
Fully Online Operations and High Job Placement Rates
Over the years, GA’s global physical footprint and growing online presence have made it possible for hundreds of thousands of students to leverage the institution’s programs.
“There really is no other organization out there that is able to deliver outcomes at the scale that we have, in terms of the number of students we serve and the consistent placement rate,” Liz said. “Over 90% of students get jobs within six months of graduating from our immersive programs. To achieve that at scale, while focusing on quality and outcomes, is very difficult.”
In addition to providing high job placement rates, the GA model ensures students won’t drown in a pool of debt upon graduation. Liz said that’s because GA views its course offering through the lens of ROI.
“We price courses based on the salary we know that people can command in these roles, with the calculation that within one year they will be able to have fully paid back their tuition,” she said.
ROI is also an important factor for businesses that work with GA to offer their employees continuous education opportunities. This is especially true as companies navigate the recent economic downturn.
“Companies have been forced to transform at an unprecedented pace due to COVID-19 — especially large groups with legacy infrastructure,” Liz said. “And they simply don’t have the people they need to do it. part of the equation involves hiring new people from GA and other places, and part of it is upskilling and reskilling people they have.”
To that end, GA’s business services help reskill teams with technical capabilities, digital mindsets, and a culture of growth that ultimately drives business success. (Interestingly, many of the tech leaders we’ve interviewed through the years have attested to the need for precisely those skills in the hosting space).
Leveraging Community Partnerships to Respond to the COVID-19 Crisis
GA is doing its part to help manage the coronavirus crisis via its Community Reskilling Partnerships.
“We’ve seen cities that are engaged with local companies reach out and say, ‘We have a number of people who have been displaced by COVID-19, and we need to transform our talent,” Liz said. “In response, we formed operations in several cities to help governments with regional workforce challenges.”
GA has already formed partnerships in Louisville, Sacramento, and Atlanta in the U.S., as well as Spain.
“We’re starting to see more of a coalition between the public and private sectors, and it’s helping to support people during this unfortunate situation,” Liz said.