Former consultant Adrien Fraise founded and started New York-based Modern Guild on the idea of improving mentorship and apprenticeship for students with career prep courses in a 1-on-1 setting. The online mentoring program offers different levels of these courses to college and high school students during three variations of its 8 to 10 week courses. The company launched in 2012. If it’s model needs to evolve, Mr. Fraise has a strong background from Stanford University and Columbia Business School to make that happen. WiredAcademic conducted an email Q-n-A recently with Mr. Fraise on what his early-stage company does and where it’s going:
WA – What is modern guild? What does it do? And how?
AF - There is a real flaw in the higher education system. It is not preparing students enough for life after school with real world tools and experiences. When tuition was more reasonable and graduates could be confident a job was waiting for them when they stepped off campus, going to college could be more about maturation or exploring new interests than working toward a career that matches a student’s skills and interests. But today, students and their families are graduating with mountains of debt, and then what? Maybe they are graduating with a more thoughtful head on their shoulders, or a more mature personality, but otherwise they are not much more prepared for a career than they were right out of high school. Modern guild’s goal is to be the answer to this problem. We provide high quality, highly motivated students – regardless of financial means – access to professional career coaches and industry experts who can help them capitalize on their college investment by identifying and planning for the right career.
Our online career-coaching program combines exposure to industry experts with a three-tiered holistic curriculum and a convenient technology platform to facilitate learning and communication. This is about more than finding a job out of college – but about finding the career that makes sense for you based on passions and skills.
WA - How much does the service cost students?
AF – Modern guild is available to any deserving student regardless of ability to pay. We provide one needs-based scholarship for every two paid students. We also are working to develop partnerships with colleges, companies and foundations to provide funded modern guild scholarships for career prep in areas of relevance to each group. If a student applies to us directly by visiting modernguild.com, the price is $1,499 for each of our three curricula, though that student need not go through all three of them.
We think it’s an incredible value when you consider that our service puts students face-to-face, over the Internet, with incredibly talented career coaches and industry experts. If you only focused on the on the human interaction perspective of the 8-10 week long career prep courses, a student will receive upwards of 8 hours of 1-on-1 interactions with their career coaches and mentors – that’s less than $200 per hour
WA – Tell us about the findings from your recent study?
AF – We are 100% committed to focusing on our performance in helping students with their career preparation, so we’re incredibly excited about the preliminary findings from our students and career mentors – we saw huge improvements in our students across several career dimensions. One of the most promising results is that before modern guild, students rated their career search preparedness a 5 on a scale of 1 to 10. After going through just a single phase of our three-phase curriculum, the average rating for preparedness increased to 8.5 out of 10. Their coaches had similar ratings, moving their students from an average of 4 out of 10 all the way to 8 out of 10 at the end of a single phase.
We are also very pleased to see that the majority of modern guilds students told us that the online face-to-face meetings with career professionals and industry-specific coaches was the most valuable part of the process. Not to say we aren’t proud of our curriculum, but it’s the one-on-one expert counseling that we think is most important. It’s nice to see that being confirmed by our pilot program.
Last, repeat business is always a sign you are doing something right, and 3 out of 4 students who went through one phase of the curriculum want or have moved on to the next.
WA - What’s your strategy for the next five years?
AF – Modern guild was founded on the premise that university career centers, however expert and well intentioned, simply do not have the resources to give students the one-on-one guidance they need to be successful. We think we have a better way, but as I mentioned before, the only way to know for sure is to be laser-focused on performance metrics.
We will always be asking our students if they feel more prepared to interview (confidence is critical when interviewing), how their interviews went, whether they got second or third interviews, and whether they got interviews with the more competitive companies. And, longer term, once they’ve been in a career, did modern guild align them with one that made sense for them.
Our metrics focus will inform what we see as a three-pronged approach to our future plans. For the first 12-18 months we will continue adding to our offerings and measuring our students’ short-term and mid-term outcomes. The second phase is to start laying the foundation to grow customers and scale, that is, finding the right balance of students to coaches, and understanding what quantity and quality of attention is required for success. Our third phase will be to develop partnerships, particularly with corporations, to enhance the job prospects and learning experiences of our graduates.
WA – What do you think college will look like in another 10 years and what role will modern guild be playing?
AF – You’d like to see some major changes in how colleges link academics and careers as I see that as one of the big flaws in today’s generalist education system. But I also know how difficult it is for large organizations to change their established ways. If you think about it historically, not much has changed in how we teach since the industrial revolution so unfortunately change at college comes at a glacial pace.
That said, there is a lot going on in the space that leaves me somewhat encouraged, including some high-profile schools taking the chance to leverage technology as a delivery platform and to break down geographic barriers. Hopefully we’ll see new opportunities like modern guild to tie academics to career planning.
As for our role, it would be foolish to presume modern guild itself has a big role in terms of how many students we reach. Where we do hope to have an outsized impact though is as a change agent, showing universities that career preparation needs to be a critical part of the academic process, making students successful in post-graduate life.
WA - How is modern guild funded so far? VC? Seed? etc.
AF – We are still in our seed stage, with investors being angels, friends and family. We expect to close our seed round at the end of 2012.
WA – How many campuses are you present on post-pilot project?
AF – During our nine-month pilot program, we’ve had 100 students complete at least one track of our curriculum across 10 different campuses. We will be sure to remain on each of those campuses, but from referrals and word of mouth, we should dramatically increase our number of students on each.
In just 17 days since we opened our merit-based application to students at our partner schools and organizations for our first post-pilot program, we have already witnessed 110,000 page views, 21,000 unique visitors and almost 3,000 applications started. Clearly the demand for a program like ours exists.
We also expect the number of campuses to grow as word gets out about modern guild’s career planning services and more students find us from their own research. In addition, we will be evangelizing modern guild to more career centers in hopes that they voluntarily take an active role in educating their students abut what we can do for them. Currently, we have great relationships like this with the University of Michigan, Boston College, and University of North Carolina, among others. Regardless of growth, we will always have a stringent application process designed to find the best, most highly motivated students to participate.