New Year's Day, I found myself joining for the first time a ritual many have embraced for years. I chose a word to represent my intentions for 2021. The word came quickly to me: obligation. Amidst a global pandemic and a year of civil unrest, it felt right to fully embrace—not with a sense of burden, but with a sense of gratitude and joy—the obligations I have not only to those closest to me and those who I work closely with, but also to those I will never meet. 2020 reminded me how deeply interconnected we are. Our interests, our health, and our futures are inextricably linked.
“Obligation” is also a word I’d use to describe our commitment to students in 2U-powered boot camps. We take seriously the obligation we have to ensure that our boot camp curriculum is tightly aligned with the expectations of employers so that students are equipped with the skills and knowledge they need to be relevant and valued. This obligation resonates with increased urgency as the service sectors of our economy have been devastated by COVID-19, and more adults are seeking opportunities to re-skill to ensure their economic well-being.
To follow through on our obligation to students, we dedicate much of our time to understanding the ever-evolving needs of the workforce. Each year, we do deep industry research to learn what industry professionals are looking for in top candidates and what technologies their companies employ. And for more direct feedback, we turn to the employers we partner with to build their talent pipelines and ask them to complete surveys and engage in deep interviews that enable us to ensure our boot camp curriculum focuses on the knowledge, skills, and abilities that align with industry demand.
In the last 12 months, we made over 14,000 job referrals for boot camp graduates, each of which has been an opportunity for us to receive feedback from an employer. We are relentless in trying to understand the difference between the candidates who advance in a hiring process and those who don’t, as it’s those insights that inform our curriculum teams on what adjustments—both small and large— need to be made to our boot camp curriculum to best prepare learners for the workforce.
In 2020 alone, we gathered feedback from more than 500 companies about resumes, LinkedIn profiles, interview behaviors, and technical assessment performance, all of which were analyzed to discern what it takes to be competitive in the job market and to then share those insights with students. No detail was too small—we offered students resume templates with just-the-right-margins and fonts, produced almost daily workshops to build the skills needed to compete in the job market, provided unlimited feedback on their professional materials, and conducted 1:1 coaching sessions throughout their job searches.
These are all elements of our Employer Competitive Framework, which was intentionally built to supply learners with the steps they need to stand out in the market through networking, projects that will enhance their portfolio of work, and strong interviewing skills. Our aim is to ensure that when students graduate from a 2U-powered boot camp, they have acquired the skills employers are looking for and have the job search strategies and professional materials they need to compete. This involves heightening their ability to concisely articulate their thought processes and transferable skills and how to apply those skills to real world business situations. In 2020, those skills included Amazon Web Services, cloud computing, network security, and soft skills such as communication, collaboration, and problem-solving—all of which were skills gleaned from employer insight reports.
For me, there is no better way to determine if we’ve fulfilled our obligation to students than by looking at the outcomes: nearly 7,000 companies have hired 2U-powered boot camp graduates and we are currently working closely with over 200 companies on their short- to medium-term hiring needs. Employers trust us, and we know they see the value in hiring talent from our boot camps because of the feedback they provide us. Companies like Amazon, Autodesk, Capital One, Cognizant, Deloitte, Google, Liberty Mutual, SkillStorm, and State Farm—they all have benefitted from our ability to deliver a diverse talent pool of great-fit candidates.
I started off this article by emphasizing our obligation to students, which is realized, in part, by designing boot camp curriculum aligned with workforce needs. But I’d take that one step further. Prioritizing providing boot camp students with the learning experience they need to actualize their professional dreams is vital to our success as a company, too. We often say that when students win, universities win, and 2U wins. But for boot camps, you can add that when employer partners win, students win, and when students win, universities and 2U win.
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