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Sebastian Thrun: Closing the Job Skills Gap – One Class at a Time

Today marks a new first for us.  You might notice this on our home page. Today we are starting two new full-service classes, developed jointly with Cloudera and Salesforce. These innovative, industry-informed classes feature interactive coaches that guide students every step of the way from the time they sign on, to studying for lessons and quizzes, to working on a project for class completion. Upon completion, students receive certificates recognized by the Open Education Alliance.

Our new courses address the widening job skills gap in the US and around the world. McKinsey estimates that by the year 2020, there will be 85 million vacant job openings for skilled or partially skilled individuals. At the same time, we face record unemployment around the globe, with youth unemployment rates exceeding 50 percent in countries like Greece and Spain. Our courses provide a path to employment. They convey skills and knowledge deemed critical by leading tech companies with a certificate that is recognized by them. The Cloudera and Salesforce classes will be followed by others jointly developed with industry partners in the coming months.

We opened pre-enrollment to our full service classes a few weeks ago, and have been pleased with the response. From a limited sample, we are seeing that the students average age is between 25 and 44. Eighty percent have an undergraduate or master’s degree and are looking to explore a career transition or gain additional credentials. This is what we expected to see as we focus more on the students that want to advance their technical skills.

At Udacity, we remain committed to helping our students develop to their highest potential for a fruitful career in technology. Digital education could be a game changer for the US and the world workforce. It might be our best weapon to close the skills gap for years to come, and be the catalyst to level up the entire world with jobs and a higher standard of living.