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You might remember Kaitlin Dumont from the Q&A she and I did when she first pivoted from higher education, as a leader in executive education at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth, where she and I were close colleagues, to Kaplan as director of university partners—or thatKaitlin Dumont, a white woman with brown hair, glasses, and a very red lipstick. time we discussed her own experience as a working adult learner in Boston University’s low-cost online M.B.A. program through the Questrom School of Business (as I’ve long written about the rise of low-cost, scaled online degree programs from universities with global brands).

Well, Kaitlin and I were catching up earlier this year walking around the scenic Occom Pond on the Dartmouth campus, and she shared that she recently started a new role at Kaplan (new to her, and new to the organization) as director of workforce learning innovation. I was intrigued about how Kaplan is positioning itself for the future at the intersection of higher education and corporate learning and development, and Kaitlin graciously agreed to answer my questions.

Q: “Director of workforce learning innovation”—you really picked all the trendy buzzwords for your new title, didn’t you! What does workforce learning innovation mean to you, and how is Kaplan positioning itself in this space?

A: It’s true! Everywhere you look, there seems to be a new piece on the ever-widening skills gap and tremendous need to upskill and reskill the workforce for the future or questioning the value of a “traditional” higher education degree and the need to imbue those programs with work-relevant experiences. Given my unique background, first working with corporate learning and development leaders on the university side, and more recently working with university leaders on the partner side—it only made sense that Kaplan created a role that enables me to continue to play in the messy middle and work to solve some to the critical learning challenges of our time.

I quickly came to realize early in my tenure at Kaplan that there may be no other company on the planet as uniquely positioned with a breadth of global relationships in both higher ed and corporate sectors. While the organization came from humble beginnings (Stanley Kaplan, after being denied entrance to medical school due to Jewish quotas—despite being at the top of his class—began tutoring students in his parent’s basement in Brooklyn with the mission of access, equity and eliminating barriers to educational and career aspirations), over the last 80-plus years, Kaplan has grown to [be] a major globally diversified educational services partner, and a strategic consultant to universities and corporations alike.

It’s funny, I was at a family wedding recently and when sharing with some extended relatives what I did for work. I got the (now not surprising) response, “Kaplan? The SAT test prep guys? What do you do for them?” and I love that moment! It gives me the opportunity to share all of the amazing work Kaplan is involved with to really move the needle on learning innovation—from innovative new solutions in the critical career-readiness space, like the award-winning Kaplan Career Core—to reinventing the business model on more classic offerings, like our All Access subscription for universities to offer industry-recognized credentials, professional licensure and, yes—test preparation to all of their students (fun fact, we are partnering with Inside Higher Ed on a webinar to do a deep dive on how Cleveland State University is leveling the playing field with this approach!). We also engage in deeply consultative partnerships with companies as we help them transform into true learning organizations for employees, moving from simply “education as a benefit” to “learning as a strategy” with a focus not only on content and curation of offerings, but a deep expertise in coach and advising (another fun fact, Kaplan is providing all of the coaching for Amazon’s Career Choice program!).

All of the elements are there. The next step is for Kaplan to continue to create real impact through aligning all of these partners across our learning ecosystem (to paraphrase another Tuck colleague and friend, Professor Ron Adner!)

Q: “Aligning partners across the ecosystem”—can you share more about what you mean by that?

A: Another Tuck faculty member I used to work with, Professor Vijay “VG” Govindarjan, used to joke that he was going to take the “motherhood and apple pie” mission statements of the Fortune 100 and rearrange them under the cover of nightfall and see if anyone noticed the next morning. I feel like I went through a similar process reading through university strategic plans this past year—they all go a little something like this: “we will endeavor to differentiate ourselves through our academic excellence to recruit top students, we will support those students and retain them through successful graduation, we will have a concerted focus on our DEI initiatives, all to ultimately create meaningful career outcomes.” While I say this a bit tongue-in-cheek, there is in fact a convergence and an urgency around these four themes—(1) recruitment, (2) retention, (3) DEI initiatives and (4) career outcomes.

It’s not so different on the corporate side—I know we are all tired of hearing about the “great resignation” in the wake of the pandemic, but there is a real urgency among employers around these same four themes—(1) recruit top talent, (2) retain them, (3) focus on DEI initiatives and (4) and solve for the first three through meaningful career paths in the company.

The solution is to create a symbiotic ecosystem in which both universities and companies deliver on the ultimate value proposition to the learner: to develop the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in the workforce and society. By partnering with universities as sources of talent and complementing their university experiences with our own professionally directed content, Kaplan can create meaningful pathways for qualified individuals to advance, whether that’s moving on to an advanced degree in the career they want to pursue, or finding great jobs with our corporate partners (symbiotically increasing the recruitment and retention for the university partner with this enhancement to their value proposition). Conversely, when our corporate partners are looking to upskill and reskill their existing talent to impact business outcomes, Kaplan can be a true strategic partner in not only curating learning experiences from our university partners but also augmenting university content with our own industry-recognized credentials, professional licensure and test preparation—as well as a strong expertise in coaching and advising—it’s a win-win-win for all!

Q: OK, crystal ball time—what does the future hold? What are your predictions?

A: I recently had an opportunity to gaze into my notoriously foggy crystal ball with some of my fellow Kaplan colleagues around the globe and put together a series of predictions for the year ahead, and I think we are hitting a point of market saturation when it comes to sheer volume of both degree and nondegree credentials (over one million in unique credentials in the U.S. according to Credential Engine’s December 2022 report!), and I predict the future of learning will be in content curation and career navigation assistance. This benefits both the learner, who is trying to make decisions about their career and educational pathway, but also universities in supporting and advising their students, and companies in upskilling and engaging their employees to ultimately deliver value for the firm.

The kicker is how do you standardize and consolidate content curation at scale while balancing financial ROI with other measures such as purpose and meaning that comes through aligning strengths, values and interests with a career journey—only time will tell, but I’m hopeful that’s the direction we are moving in, and Kaplan is poised to lead the way.


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