Are we sending too many people to college or not enough? How can we better equip all learners with the education and skills they need for today’s jobs, and tomorrow’s? What role should business and government play in transforming education after high school? In each episode of Lessons Earned, Ben Wildavsky and colleagues from Strada Education Network sit down with educators, employers and policymakers who are challenging the status quo and exploring bold new ideas to help millions of Americans navigate between learning and earning.

Season 2

Episode 4: Scott Pulsipher

Western Governors University began as a bold experiment to create a completely online university—a place where learning is self-paced and the institution’s value is measured not by the profiles of its incoming freshmen, but the career success of its graduates. As the COVID-19 pandemic forces colleges and universities across the country into a virtual learning environment, we talk to Scott Pulsipher, president of the nation’s largest online competency-based university.

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Episode 3: Aimée Eubanks Davis

Long before COVID-19, America’s most vulnerable students were struggling to access not only education and skills training, but the social connections that open doors to great careers. Aimée Eubanks Davis, founder and CEO of Braven, says the pandemic’s disproportionate impact on low-income and minority communities has also laid bare inequities in the education-to-workforce ecosystem. It’s time, she says, to level the playing field so all college graduates can secure strong first jobs that lead to long-term career success.

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Episode 2: Meghan Hughes

Rhode Island has improved the lives and livelihoods of its residents by combining classroom education with hands-on, work-based learning. But what happens when businesses are shuttered and students must learn at a distance? Meghan Hughes, president of the Community College of Rhode Island, says the COVID-19 pandemic is actually a great opportunity for her school and its students to demonstrate how they can adapt in trying times.

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Episode 1: Tony Carnevale

How do we make sense of higher education and its relationship to the economy in the midst of a pandemic that changed the world overnight? Normally, when the economy is down, you go back to school, says Tony Carnevale, director of the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce. But what’s your strategy if that’s not a great option right now? Carnevale explains why this economic crisis is different, who’s most at risk, and what it means for post-high school education and training.

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Season 1

Episode 1: Freeman Hrabowski

It’s time for colleges and universities to take a hard look in the mirror, says University of Maryland Baltimore County President Freeman Hrabowski. Too many students don’t make it to graduation and others are faced with the false choice between pursuing a broad education and gaining technical skills, when they actually need both. At UMBC, he’s proving that with the right support, even the most challenged students will succeed.

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Episode 2: Oren Cass

Oren Cass, author of The Once and Future Worker, says we’ve gone too far in our college-going culture, steering too many students down a postsecondary pathway that only serves about one-third of our population. It’s time, he says, to destigmatize vocational and technical education, to create and fund alternative pathways between high school and the workplace, and to fill millions of jobs that don’t, or shouldn’t, require a college degree. 

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Episode 3: Lisa Schumacher

McDonald’s is one of the nation’s largest entry-level employers, and like a growing number of businesses, it provides extensive education benefits for front-line workers to improve opportunities for themselves and their families. Lisa Schumacher, Director of Educational Strategies at McDonald’s Corp., talks about how the fast-food giant supports workers as they earn and learn, through English-language training, money for college, and technology aimed at helping them explore their career options.

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Episode 4: Tony Jack

Anthony Abraham Jack, a Harvard University researcher and author of The Privileged Poor, discusses his own experience as a low-income college student as well as the experiences of many of today’s learners who are navigating an unfamiliar affluent campus culture they struggle to understand, let alone join. He suggests simple things educators can do to make their campuses not only more diverse, but truly inclusive.

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Episode 5: Byron Auguste

How can we find better ways to measure and value the job skills possessed by Americans who don’t have a traditional college degree? Byron Auguste, a former White House economic adviser and current CEO at Opportunity@Work, says screening out job applicants who can’t check the degree box eliminates opportunity for millions of people who already have what it takes to do a great job.

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Episode 6: Van Ton-Quinlivan

What can employers do to prepare today’s workers for the jobs of tomorrow? Van Ton-Quinlivan, CEO of Futuro Health and a former leader in the California Community College system, talks about how employers, labor unions, and educators can work together to help workers learn what they need to get better jobs. Education is not a one-time inoculation to prepare people for a lifetime of work, she says. Frequent booster shots are needed throughout our careers.

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Season One Trailer

Lessons Earned, a new podcast from Strada Education Network, explores how to improve education and work.

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