Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) and LRNG, two of the most innovative education organizations in the country, announced today they are merging to build a learning and workforce solution for cities and employers across the U.S. This model will help unlock talent and opportunity in cities across the country, put people on the path to middle-class jobs, and transform and revitalize communities that are seeking to attract and retain talent.

They will work with cities, employers, and community-based partners to identify workforce and educational needs and build digital badges, learning playlists, or entire degree programs depending on what skills are needed in each city. Students will be able to access LRNG’s learning “playlists” to develop skills and earn credentials, such as coding or career readiness courses, or they can access SNHU’s full competency-based degree programs to earn an associate or bachelor’s degree to fit a specific employer and workforce need in their area.

“We are thrilled about the merger with SNHU,” said Connie Yowell, Executive Vice President and CEO of LRNG. “To establish real and meaningful pathways to the middle class for youth that need them most, the educational community must build seamless connections between learning and work, and passion and opportunity throughout a learner’s life. Joining forces with SNHU is an extraordinary effort to do just that and make a difference in the lives of our learners and their communities.”

When looking to the future of learning and work, it is important to acknowledge that some of the most powerful youth learning experiences today are happening outside classroom walls. By 2025, 60% of Americans will need some type of high-quality credential beyond high school. With this in mind, one goal of the model is to enable learners to earn credit for learning wherever and whenever it may happen. For example, by leveraging municipal resources—libraries, community centers, and other publicly accessible spaces—students in each city will be able to access learning pathways that fit their needs and are directly applicable in the workforce.

“At a time when many believe higher education inhabits the rigidly defined space between high school and workforce, SNHU is redefining higher education’s boundaries and creating personalized pathways that give learners just the right learning, at just the right time, at just the right place in their lives,” said Paul LeBlanc, University President and CEO, SNHU. “We are excited to work with LRNG and cities across the U.S. to address some of the most pressing workforce needs of our time and give people the skills they need to thrive in an increasingly complex and uncertain workforce and society.”

As part of the merger, LRNG will become the community impact arm of SNHU, and has announced a new initiative in Birmingham, as well as an expansion of efforts already underway in Chicago. They will work with local government, employers, the public library systems, community colleges, or other local partners to open the door to new opportunities for residents and help close workforce gaps. Major national employers such as Amazon Web Services and Unity are joining in the effort. At the same time, LRNG will coordinate with city government and work closely with local employers in each city, such as Regions Bank, in Birmingham.

“We know that education is firmly linked to economic growth, so we are thrilled that SNHU and LRNG are bringing workforce-relevant solutions to Birmingham to help people across the city gain the skills they need to succeed in our changing workforce,” said Randall Woodfin, Mayor of Birmingham, Alabama. “Over the next ten years, Birmingham will continue to see an increase in careers in IT, advanced manufacturing, and nursing. This solution bringing together educators, employers, and community partners will help bridge our workforce gap and put the people of Birmingham to work in meaningful careers that have the potential to change the trajectory of our whole community.”

The work of LRNG builds on deep investment in research, design experiments, and demonstrations of learning in the digital age that John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and Fossil Foundation have supported. This merger allows both organizations to expand our their reach in hopes of minimizing the equity and opportunity gap by transforming how young people access and experience learning.

The full press release can be found here.

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