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Sebastian Thrun gives keynote address at the Midwestern Governors Association annual summit

Sebatian Thrun - Udacity - Jobs of Tomorrow - 1

This morning, Sebastian Thrun spoke at the Midwestern Governors Association, and additionally participated in a panel, with a focus on jobs of the future, workforce development, and more. The 2-day event, running from September 19-20, highlights the ways the region is “adapting education and workforce training, infrastructure, energy and quality of life assets” in response to emerging technological innovations.

On August 20, 2018, the Midwestern Governors Association (MGA) and Governor John Kasich of Ohio jointly announced that Udacity founder and chairman Sebastian Thrun would be the lead-off speaker for day two of the annual summit. This year’s theme for the conference is “The Smartland: Prepared, Agile and Empowered for the Future,” and we were thrilled for Sebastian to receive the invitation to speak. As noted in the official press release for the event, Governor Kasich mirrors our passion and urgency for the topics to be addressed:

“We are facing a tsunami of job disruption and creation in our country and we must challenge the status quo in education or risk our young people being left behind. That’s why I’m so excited to have Sebastian join us at the MGA Summit to address this important topic.”

Governor Kasich is absolutely correct in noting the existence of significant employment challenges facing our country today, and there is no question that learners of all ages and stages need and deserve ready access to programs through which they can acquire the valuable and in-demand skills necessary for success in our modern economy.

Udacity in the Midwest

Today, there are more than 86k students across the midwest who are registered to learn with Udacity. Over 10k of these aspiring learners have enrolled in Nanodegree programs, where they absorb world-class content, and benefit from mentorship and career support as they pursue expertise in fields ranging from self-driving cars, robotics, and artificial intelligence, to web development, digital marketing, and data science. We’re excited by these numbers, but we also know this is only the beginning of an effort that must continue to rapidly expand.

Student Success

Scholarship initiatives such Grow with Google are having an impact when it comes to broadening learning and career opportunities in the region. Marcy Bursac spent more than a decade working for non-profit organizations in St. Charles, Missouri, but ultimately realized she needed to make a change if she was to realize her life and career dreams:

“After pouring 12 years of my life into the nonprofit world, I realized my lifestyle goals of being an adoptive mom who was active and present with her two children were not meshing with the responsibility of my nonprofit career. With the help of the Grow With Google Udacity Scholarship, I recently began a Developer Apprenticeship at Charter Communications!”

We are elated to report that today, Marcy has now landed her dream job as an Associate Developer at Charter Communications!  

When we first connected with Jake Gornall back in 2017, the Columbus, Ohio resident had only recently emerged from a long and challenging period during which he had to seriously evaluate and reconsider his life’s direction:

“Jake Gornall was working as a music store manager when his son was diagnosed with 22q11.2 Microdeletion Syndrome, a genetic disorder. His family’s future was suddenly uncertain; what did the coming days and years hold, and how would he prepare for them? Above all else, he knew he had to ensure his family would be supported. But he wasn’t confident that his current career could provide that support. What could he do?”

The occasion for originally featuring Jake’s story was to celebrate that, within two months of graduating from the Udacity Full Stack Web Developer Nanodegree program, he landed a job at Ascena Retail Group as a Front-End Web Developer. That was in July of last year, and we’re so happy to share that Jake is continuing to thrive in this role!

Digital Transformation

Among many topics covered by Sebastian in his talk, is the story of how Udacity’s commitment to digital transformation at the enterprise level is powering skills acquisition and career advancement for thousands of midwest employees across myriad industries. Our hiring partners in Ohio include Accenture, Chrysler, and IBM, to name just a few. AT&T is another key partner in the region, and we recently wrote about how Udacity and AT&T have joined forces to train workers for the jobs of tomorrow, and how their work with Udacity enables both the upskilling of their existing workforce, and the development of vital new talent pipelines:

“To keep pace, we worked to create a culture of continuous learning. We expect that in the future, the job market will increasingly place a premium on ongoing worker knowledge and training. Accordingly, the demand for us all to be lifelong learners will only intensify. On-demand, mobile, swift, specific skills-based learning is the future.” —John G. Palmer, Senior Vice President, Human Resources, AT&T

Connie Skomra is a two-time Udacity scholarship recipient, having earned an AT&T scholarship in 2016, and a Grow with Google challenge scholarship winner in 2018. She took time off to raise a family, but courtesy of her dedication and tenacity in Udacity’s classrooms, she was able to simultaneously continue acquiring new skills, and she’s now on her 4th Nanodegree program! Best of all, in January of this year, she landed a role at Columbus, Ohio-based Manifest Solutions.

As with every Udacity graduate who leverages their newfound skills and experience to launch and advance their careers, these remarkable individuals have embraced lifelong learning, cultivated growth mindsets, and committed to paths of ongoing self-improvement. They have worked hard to ensure long-term career relevance, nurtured their abilities to deliver value and power growth, and built rewarding lives.

Udacity’s mission is to ensure that every deserving learner—in the midwest, and across the globe—has these same opportunities to advance their goals and achieve their dreams.

Education and Workforce Development

The skills gap in this country is very real, as all the business leaders and policy makers in attendance at the Midwestern Governors Association annual summit know. In choosing a theme focused on preparation, agility, and empowerment, they have made a bold statement of priorities. Presenters at the conference include:

  • Joe Fuller, Professor of Management Practice & Co-Lead, Managing the Future of Work, Harvard Business School
  • Jim Hackett, President & Chief Executive Officer, Ford Motor Company
  • Scott Pulsipher, President, Western Governors University

Sebastian himself, in addition to giving his keynote address—entitled “In the Coming Age of the Superhuman, How Do We Prepare for the Jobs of the Future?,”—also particpatd in a panel discussion with Darrell West (Vice President, Governance Studies & Director, Center for Technology Innovation, Brookings Institution) and Tae Yoo, Senior Vice President, Cisco Systems, Inc. The panel is entitled Education and Workforce Development, and participants addressed the following:

How can we ensure that our workforce has the skills to be viable in the future? We can no longer expect our existing education systems, with their focus on two- and four-year degrees and often change-averse nature, to adequately prepare us. We must respond to employers’ demands for specific skills by developing new approaches focused on credentials, competencies, assessment, and certificates—all supported by better advising, mentoring, counseling and apprenticing.

On behalf of all at Udacity, we are honored to have Sebastian Thrun speaking to this group on our challenges and opportunities as we move ever-further into a technology-powered future. We know that in partnership with forward-thinking innovators from all sectors of the employment landscape, we can support every single individual who seeks to empower themselves through learning—today, tomorrow, and beyond.

Stuart Frye
Stuart Frye
Stuart Frye is Vice President of Business Development at Udacity, overseeing all of Udacity's strategic partnerships, government, and economic opportunity work. Stuart has over 15 years experience as an education entrepreneur and considers education to be the single most powerful lever our students have to create better life opportunities. Prior to Udacity, Stuart was CEO and co-founder of Eduvant, providing data analytics for K12 districts and charter schools. He started his career in education opening schools across China with Aston Educational Group. He also led case teams as a strategy consultant with the Monitor Group. Stuart is based in San Francisco and has lived and worked in Boston as well as China.