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Guild Education: Unlocking Access to Education and Opportunity for America’s Workforce

November 13, 2019
BY KEN CHENAULT AND TEAM GC
by
Ken Chenault
General Catalyst Team
Guild Education: Unlocking Access to Education and Opportunity for America’s Workforce

At General Catalyst, our mission is to invest in powerful, positive change that endures, backing visionary founders who take a long-term view to solving complex problems with economic and technological innovation. Rachel Carlson and her team at Guild Education are doing just that.

Guild Education is on a mission to unlock opportunity for America’s workforce through education, with a double bottom line business model that does well by doing good. And their mission couldn’t be more pressing. Of the 160 million working adults in the United States, 88 million are in need of higher education or upskilling in order to compete in the future of work. Fortune 1000 companies recognize the need to play a role, and most have budgets set aside for Leadership & Development and employee education. A select few are becoming employers of choice by providing supported pathways to earn an advanced education. However, at most American companies, despite the best intentions, many tuition reimbursement budgets are difficult for employees to access, requiring students to pay for a large portion of upfront costs or a significant portion of the total tuition themselves with expensive student loans. Even if employees are able to access education benefits through their employer, many cannot justify trading studying full-time for earning an hourly wage, or driving several hours to classes while balancing the needs of family.

After spending the early part of her career working in higher education with low-income students, Rachel had a unique insight that much of the American dream is unlocked with access to quality, affordable higher education. Guild partners with Fortune 1000 companies including Walmart, Lowe’s, The Walt Disney Company, Discover Financial, and Chipotle, giving them the unique opportunity to provide this access to their employees through a debt-free or highly subsidized education benefit delivered in a flexible, digital medium with one-on-one coaching to empower students to acquire the transformational skills they need to advance. This, in turn, increases employee retention and delivers value to the enterprise.

Through the Guild network, employees have access to more than 1,600 programs at accredited schools nationwide, including the University of Arizona and Purdue Global, to earn associate’s, bachelor’s and master’s degrees, as well as a variety of certificates and credentials such as software engineering and product management, plumbing and electrical trades, English-as-a-second language, college prep, and high school completion.

Access to education can be transformational, and the role of education in combating income inequality and arming individuals who feel disempowered in society is critical. As the reframing of corporate responsibility continues to take shape, companies are beginning to take a more proactive role in building truly integrated business models driven by mission, values, and compelling economics interwoven at their core, enabling them to profit while making a positive impact on society.

Guild Education is a company not just with a mission, but also a strong business model with a double bottom line and an ability to deliver in ways that can benefit both corporations and society more broadly. We are proud to announce our investment in Guild, leading its Series D financing, and we are excited to partner with Rachel and her team to transform America’s workforce through education and opportunity.

— Ken Chenault & Team GC

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