Patient learning 1
A new kind of online school wants to teach nursing, and more
The firm devotes about a third of its time and resources to finding jobs for its graduates, an unusually high share. Another third goes to recruiting students and the rest to teaching. Courses are created with employers’ requirements in mind. For its web-development programme, the list given to Lambda by companies runs to 280 items. Unlike coding, nursing cannot be taught entirely over the internet, so Lambda wants to co-operate with nursing schools across America that could provide the necessary hands-on instruction.
After nursing, Lambda plans to work its way down the list of professions with the biggest job shortages. It is also examining the problem from the other side, identifying available jobs that require skills akin to those of victims of automation—truckers displaced by self-driving lorries or call-centre workers replaced by robocalls.
Lambda’s quirks set it apart in Silicon Valley, but Mr Allred is not the first to recognise the value of work-focused education and training. Germany is famed for its widespread vocational training and apprenticeships. Closer to California, the University of Waterloo, a technology-oriented Canadian institution, has had gainful employment within the field of study as one of its core goals since it was founded 62 years ago. Students seeking an internship can enroll in a special scheme which matches them with firms. Norah McRae, who runs the programme, says that most universities spend little time finding work for the graduates, or teaching the skills they need to prosper in the job market. Too often students are treated as cash cows to be milked for research funding.
But Ms McRae is also concerned that programmes like Lambda School, though well-meaning, risk undermining existing educational institutions by offering a quicker route to work. The kind of intense optimisation which Lambda espouses cannot, she worries, replace conventional learning, which strives to create not just capable workers but rounded individuals.
Such fears presuppose that Lambda can succeed beyond even Mr Allred’s wildest dreams—or those of the venture capitalists who pumped $30m into the firm in January, valuing it at $150m. Student numbers, and so upfront costs, are growing faster than revenues. If Lambda can turn a profit by offering people a stab at a decent job, that would be a fine lesson in capitalism.