ReSkilled Ep3 Transcript


Jeff: [00:00:00] Jeff Woodward, and this is ReSkilled.

As we record today, it's spring of 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought many organizations to a standstill, and the way we work, if we work at all, has been transformed.

If you had any uncertainty about your role before, you might now be considering a change in career paths, or at the very least, shoring up your technology skills.

You could take classes at college or university. However, most postsecondary programs take months or years to complete and are designed to provide a broad foundation of theory rather than the job-oriented skills that employers are looking for right now.

Another option is a job training boot camp. These are short, intense learning experiences designed to give people from non-tech backgrounds the training they need to fill roles in this digital economy.

Today we'll talk to two people who help to deliver these kinds of programs. We'll explore what training looks like, who's taking it, and what these programs have shown us about how everyday people adapt to changing employment landscapes.

Alyssa Diehl has been working with Manpower Canada for a few years, but not too long ago, she took on a new role as the Workforce Development Manager overseeing their TechCareers program in Edmonton. Tech careers is a four month intensive program that prepares people to transition from non-tech careers to jobs in the industry.

Thanks for joining us on ReSkilled. Alyssa.

Alyssa: [00:01:36] Thanks for having me. It's a pleasure.

Jeff: [00:01:39] Uh, so I guess I'll get you to start by just telling us what workforce Alberta is and, and what you do there with your very cool job title.

Alyssa: [00:01:50] Thank you. Alright. Well, a lot of people know Manpower as a staffing agency.

We have been around in Alberta, um, owned and operated locally here in Alberta for over sixty years, which is really providing permanent and temporary staffing solutions. It has been in the last 10 years that we started focusing, um, a lot more on our reskilling programs. So that's where the Workforce Development title comes in.

So in 2011, we had one program in Alberta, helping unemployed Albertans really get back to work, get back into the labor market. Um, but just a couple of years ago, we started partnering a lot more with the government of Alberta and now have 10 programs with the government focused on reskilling, upskilling Albertans into, you know, maybe a transition into employment services.

Jeff: [00:02:51] Very cool. Very cool. So the people who use your services, um, did they come from all walks of life or is there a particular demographic or, or industry that most people come from and go to?

Alyssa: [00:03:05] So our target audience is adult unemployed Albertans or under-employed, which is, they're working under 20 hours a week.

We have seen a vast majority coming from oil and gas wanting to transition to something different and also new Canadians as well.

Jeff: [00:03:23] What are some of the unique challenges that someone coming from oil and gas would face and what sort of reskilling are they looking for?

Alyssa: [00:03:30] I guess I should say there is probably usually two types of oil and gas workers that come to us, right?

We have the professionals, the engineers, the project managers that have really been displaced probably since 2015 with the oil and gas downturn. And then we have, um, you know, our oil and gas workers that were more trades focused, and maybe aren't, you know, I don't want to, you know, blanket term that they're not tech savvy, but some of them that that's where they want to upskill.

Jeff: [00:04:03] Yeah, that makes sense. I mean, they're both highly specialized training that they're coming from, but one group is out of that engineering, sort of more tech savvy and then trades people. And then what, what are you training them to do?

Alyssa: [00:04:18] So we have a range of programs. Here in Edmonton we have two programs right now. We have, um, our Career Leap program, which is really focused on any Albertan, any industry that they want a quick transition to employment. We can help with their, um, their job search. Maybe, you know, a quick reskill, like a couple courses here and there, but really just transition them into something different or maybe back to what they had been doing previously.

And then we have our TechCareers program. It's a program I'm very passionate about. We've partnered with the University of Alberta and we are retraining Albertans into software developers. So it's a really fun program. Um, and I think. A very present and future program as well. Just we're, I think this province is heading.

Jeff: [00:05:14] Yeah, absolutely. So let's focus on the tech program just for a moment. One of the issues I think for re-skilling for someone, especially if they're unemployed or underemployed, often to go back to school is a huge commitment timewise. So what is the sort of time commitment for one of these re-skilling courses that, uh, that you guys offer.

Alyssa: [00:05:32] Four months in class and then two months we partner with employers and do a work experience.

Jeff: [00:05:38] Still that's six months. That's like, that's nothing compared to a two or four year diploma degree.

Alyssa: [00:05:44] Yes. We're getting so many people that have already done that in a different capacity that, you know, they don't want to go back to school for two to four years. You know? They have their chemical engineering or electrical engineering already. They want something that they can really take their transferable skills and boost them up.

Jeff: [00:06:03] Yeah, absolutely. And so I imagine it's probably pretty applied learning.

Alyssa: [00:06:08] Yes. We're, we're making it very much so of a work environment with projects, teamwork, presentations, pitching...

Jeff: [00:06:18] All the stuff they'll need to do when they go out into the, into that field. That's fantastic. So that's obviously a growth industry in Alberta. What have some of the challenges been for you, other than the fact that you probably had to [move the program online] on the fly in about a week?

Alyssa: [00:06:34] Yes it was like two days!

Jeff: [00:06:36] What, uh, what have some of the obstacles been in bringing the program online?

Alyssa: [00:06:40] Some of the students saying that they really learn better in person. Um, and I can completely understand that as well. Cause I mean, I like to take in-person classes too.

But I just think that the future is going to more of the remote learning, and that's what you guys [Onlea] specialize in, right? It really is the present and future and it's good for the students to start getting more used to this learning, online learning.

Jeff: [00:07:10] Yeah. And I mean, if I've learned anything in the years I've been doing this, it's that if you can teach it, you can teach it online.

But it's not, like, you can't do it the same way. It's tough to take a classroom situation and replicate that online. You actually have to find a different way to do it.

Um, so with that in mind, what have your instructors been doing? I assume that your groups work as a cohort and you know, they were working in a classroom, probably they had workstations, so they were doing practical work. Are you still  doing like, Zoom meetings or Microsoft Teams or something like that? That they're all, uh, connecting on?

Alyssa: [00:07:46] So they've all transitioned onto Zoom, that's correct.

I know in the mornings they'll do a stand up meeting... You know, everyone goes through what some of their challenges are.

And there's a lot of group work going on as well. So they're all trying to, you know, transition to "when's a good time to meet, when can we work on this" and try to do that more remote now.

And, you know. Really, really looking at the same type of environment that they would be working in, on projects with an employer. Because some companies, right, like you might be working with someone that's overseas and how would that look and how would the time change look?

And yeah, it's been, yeah. Interesting.

Jeff: [00:08:29] Yeah. That's actually, that's a fantastic practical, uh, preparation for going out into the workforce and doing that.

So I want to go back to the second group, the new Canadians that you spoke of as your other sort of major demographic. Are they going through the same program or do you have a different set of programs for them?

Alyssa: [00:08:46] So some of them come to our Career Leap program here in Edmonton where they just want a quick transitional employment service. Some of them might be interested in tech careers, and then they do want to go through the full program.

We also have programs in Red Deer, Fort McMurray, Airdrie, and Calgary too.

Jeff: [00:09:05] Wow. So what do you love about doing this particular thing and being involved with these, these learners and people transitioning?

Alyssa: [00:09:13] I love seeing their lives change. That's, I think... so fulfilling to be able to, you know, see someone that's coming in that maybe hasn't worked for six months, a year, or two years, and are able to, uh, have full time employment. And, and say, "this program changed my life."

Jeff: [00:09:35] Yeah, that's gotta be pretty rewarding to, to witness that on a repeated basis, eh? That's wonderful.

So now going forward, uh, obviously your current cohort is working online. Is the plan currently to keep it- I mean, obviously you have to keep it online until you don't have to. But are you- because with online you can expand enrollment and stuff like that- are you looking at moving the programs online on a more permanent basis as opposed to the sort of ad hoc way it's happening now?

Alyssa: [00:10:12] I think this was something that we had never thought of until the last month. We're seeing now, that wow, we can be flexible!

And I think this is gonna really be able to help those that were never able to access our programs before.

I even think of, you know, even people in Leduc and Stony Plain that never wanted to attend any of our programs because they just didn't want to commute to downtown. Hey, maybe now we can really open up a branch and, and get some of those outlying communities.

Jeff: [00:10:49] Yeah, it's, it's an interesting thing about online learning that a lot of people don't, uh, don't think of it.

I was at a conference a couple of years ago and they had this guy from Michigan State University who's a relatively famous computer science, uh, person. He had taught at Michigan State for 20 years and was really resistant to online learning. And they finally made him, like, do a class.

And he obviously, he became a convert. He'd done the math and he'd figured, he taught there for 20 years and the maximum people he could have in a class was 90, for his biggest class. So in 20 years, he taught like 3000 students.

And in the first year that his course was online, uh, 50,000 students took his course.  And he's like, I don't know why I waited so long. It just like it, it made such a huge... Like I reached more people in a year than I had reached in my entire career.

Alyssa: [00:11:41] Oh, that's amazing. Yeah.

Jeff: [00:11:42] And so like, when you actually think about that, it's just like, yeah, it's sort of limitless-- the potential to reach people and on their own terms. Which is kind of a cool thing.

Going back to the bootcamp idea-- I guess there are two parts to this question. The first part is: who should look at doing a boot camp, in your experience of the people who've come through?

Obviously we know they have to either be on EI or have qualified for EI, so there's a sort of practical qualification process. But I guess in terms of, you know, where they're at and how they're feeling is, have you, have you sort of gotten some feedback from people who have gone through and where they were at when they came to you?

Alyssa: [00:12:23] Yes. And what we've really seen is it's not so much of, um, their past experience or education, it really is their passion. And their commitment to retrain... And their passion for innovation and technology that really drives them.

You know, we, we've had people in our program that didn't have much of a tech background, but personally they were already starting to, um, I guess self-developed that.

So they were the ones that were the most successful just because their passion really lit that fire for them to excel in the program and, and go after, um, I guess their, their dreams, right? Uh, of what they wanted from the program.

A lot of them that were kind of going above and beyond, like going to tech events -- a lot of them have transitioned online, which is amazing because you know, there's a lot of tech networking going on in the city.

So if the students can do that on their evenings, just once in a while, just to start meeting some of the community, that really really helps them.

Jeff: [00:13:42] Yeah. So what I'm hearing is... don't be held back by the fact that you don't know anything about this. If you're passionate about it and open to learning, you can find success.

Alyssa: [00:13:54] Exactly yes. You said it better than I could have.

Jeff: [00:13:58] Awesome, that's wonderful. Are there any stories of people who you've met, uh, in the time you've been going through this that stick with you, and would you like to share any of those successes with us?

Alyssa: [00:14:10] Sure. Yes. Let me think. Last year, in 2019 we had a female student. And I say female because mostly our intake is 80% male.

So we love to see females in tech because not as many apply. And it's not because we're looking for males, it's just what we receive as intake.

So we had a female that was, she was working at the Gap part time and loved technology. Um, had been a stay at home mum for years.

Had heard about this program through a coworker at the Gap, that said, "Hey, I heard about this TechCareers program, you should really look into this. And before we were even able to earn her work experience, she had found a full-time job up in software development. Um, so we thought that was a really good success story for 2019.

Jeff: [00:15:07] Yeah, that's wonderful. Tech and development definitely need more women.

Alyssa: [00:15:12] Yes.

Jeff: [00:15:13] So, Alyssa, this all sounds really amazing and it sounds like a wonderful resource. Uh, the, I think the important question a lot of people are gonna ask is how much is it gonna cost them?

Alyssa: [00:15:21] This is a free program, so a lot of people think this is too good to be true. They're like, "What?"

Jeff: [00:15:26] So it's free. It's free for the students. Like, there's no tuition.

Alyssa: [00:15:32] No, no tuition. Yeah, the government of Alberta takes that on. So, yeah, that's, that's kind of nice.

Jeff: [00:15:39] Wow! That's amazing. There are not many things that are free anymore, so that is very nice. I mean, you obviously have to commit to the time and to the learning, but, uh, if you're willing to do that, that's the rest is all just details.

If someone has listened to this and they feel that it speaks to them, uh, where can they go? How can they find you to enroll in one of these, uh, in one of these boot camps? Or just find out what their options are?

Alyssa: [00:16:04] Sure. Yeah. So either on our Manpower Alberta website, you can find our TechCareers link on there through workforce development, or just to Google and our website will come up.

We're currently taking our next batch for July, 2020. So we're currently doing our intake and enrollment right now.

Jeff: [00:16:24] Awesome. Thank you so much for, uh, for visiting with us today, Alyssa.

Alyssa: [00:16:28] Thank you for your time, Jeff. It was a pleasure.

Jeff: [00:16:41] InceptionU is also a short term re-skilling school focused on helping folks hone the skills they need to work in tech. It was co-founded by Margot Purcell, who is also the CEO. She's going to tell us why they think a holistic design-centered approach can work even in a bootcamp setting and why helping people learn how to learn is at least as important as passing along specific skills.

Margo, welcome to ReSkilled.

Margo: [00:17:05] Oh, you're most welcome. Thanks, Jeff.

Jeff: [00:17:07] You're uh, you're joining us from your home office in Calgary right?

Margo: [00:17:11] Correct.

Jeff: [00:17:13] Awesome. Uh, and then I assume inception you isn't normally based out of your house. Whereabouts are you guys?

Margo: [00:17:22] Normally we're based out of, uh, right now we have a partnership with the Calgary public library. And so normally we're based out of the beautiful new central library right in downtown Calgary. We're on the third floor in the back of house. Um, and we have a great space that we really look forward to getting back to.

Jeff: [00:17:39] So Margo, I'd love it if you could tell us a little bit about what InceptionU is and how long you've existed and what you guys do.

Margo: [00:17:46] Okay. Well, InceptionU is a private nonprofit university, and our clear aim is that people learn how to learn.

We're looking at the fact that the world is really uncertain and changes quite a bit. And in order to be able to adjust and adapt and be resilient through all of that, it's really important to understand how to learn because things are changing all of the time.

And what we look to do really is focus on helping people be future fit. And so future fit is what are those competencies that are needed for us to be equipped to thrive in, in a completely changing future.

And the future is here. It's not like this is something that's needed down the road- this is what's needed right now. This is also what's being asked for by a lot of companies and organizations saying, "we need people to be able to be creative. We need them to be able to apply things."

And so we look at the clear foundations of doing things with a mindset of design. If we design things well, they will actually solve the problems.

And then also equipping people with being able to do critical thinking, systems thinking, creative thinking, computational thinking.

And also how do you communicate? How do you collaborate? It's really, really important in our world to be able to communicate with a great diversity of people, to be able to understand them. That's how you figure out what problem they're trying to solve. And that way we can design solutions that work.

Jeff: [00:19:10] Those are some really big ideas. So, uh, let's, let's dig into those. So the first thing you said that, uh, that really struck me is you want to help people learn how to learn. So what does that mean for you?

Margo: [00:19:24] How do we break things down? How do we understand all the components that go into it?

What our experience is, and -I think many of us of my vintage grew up this way, not that it's bad- we were taught to learn in chunks. And chunks that build on each other in quite a linear fashion.

Except that's not actually how humans learn. We're born incredibly curious. Sometimes we squash that out of ourselves as we go along. And so we want to foster that curiosity again. Not having a roadmap of what you need to know, instead fostering that curiosity and being able to figure it out for yourself. Giving a little bit of guidance and framework on how to break things down and then how to build them back into coherent understanding.

So we're moving beyond simply being information gatherers that we're actually building knowledge. And more importantly, being able to apply that knowledge, which leads to wisdom.

And that's when we look at learning how to learn. It's being able to, knowing that even if you've never seen something before, you know you know how to figure it out. The point is to get started.

Jeff: [00:20:37] Right. And that's, so that's where the critical thinking and the computational thinking and all those sort of tools come in. So that's really amazing.

I'm really curious now to ask, so who are your learners, then?

Margo: [00:20:51] That's what's been fascinating!

So right now we have one program, we have a tech stream at InceptionU called EvolveU. And EvolveU was really put together in order- particularly at the time- to help people who had been displaced in the energy sector to be able to reposition themselves towards the tech sector.

We knew that there was a need for it and there was a need for talent. And how do we help equip people if they don't necessarily have two, three, four years to put into that?

Um, and so when we put that program out, it's a six month intensive program and, uh, where they're learning software development.

What was fascinating was who showed up. And it wasn't a demographic. You know, we were being asked marketing-wise, what's your demographic?

We were looking for, um, we were looking for a certain kind of person. Again, are you curious, are you open minded, and are you a lifelong learner? If you're equipped with that... the technical competence, that's something that we can, we can help impart. And then being able to do it using those critical thinking components.

So our learners have been... we've had as young as, um, had just turned 20 years old through to 63 years old. And everything in between.

There is a big bulk that come to our program that tend to be, you know... Early thirties to mid forties, early fifties kind of thing. Um, and they are transitioning. Some of them are transitioning because they had to. Some of them are transitioning because they're wondering, is this really where I'm meant to be?

And they knew that they had this interest, particularly in the field of technology, and they were looking for a different kind of learning experience.  Because likely more conventional approaches hadn't worked for them in the past and they were looking for this kind of project-based, hands on, dig in and kind of choose your own adventure kind of learning that we work to provide.

Jeff: [00:22:50] That's really interesting. And, and so, uh, the people that come to InceptionU they don't, there's no sort of prequalification in terms of education. They don't need to have done an engineering degree or an IT diploma or anything like that. Right? You could have been like me and worked in kitchens?

Margo: [00:23:09] Yep. And we've had it. That's what's fascinating too, is learning people's stories. And when we look at the diversity- so the diversity in our cohorts is fascinating cause it's diversity on so many different levels and in so many different frames. It's diversity of experience.

So we have had someone who started in accounting, realize that's not where I want to go. Stop that, became a barista. And now is a software developer. Um, we've had people who've had 20 years in the energy sector and they are pivoting. Um, we've had people who maybe had next-to-no kind of technical background.

We do require that they do have a base level of understanding of logic in order to get in. We're not looking for previous certifications to come in.

Then we also have a wide diversity, not only of ages, also different cultural backgrounds- we have quite a few people who are newer to Canada and they, you know, their past experience isn't necessarily recognized and this was a way to get some Canadian experience.

Um, as well as the number of women we've had in our program historically has been quite high compared to some other programs, which has been interesting. Um, and we're trying to understand what is it that is drawing people in towards ours as well.

Jeff: [00:24:30] Yeah, that is interesting cause we were talking to a couple other people who do similar sort of reskilling programs, specifically around tech training and, and uh, much like the tech industry itself, their numbers are about 80/20 male to female.

Margo: [00:24:44] And our first, in our first. Two cohorts. We were up over 35% female. Um, and our third cohort, we were at about 30%. In the fourth cohort, it dropped a bit. Um, which we're curious about and we're looking and investigating what might be in and around that. Um, and what else needs to happen to have it be that we're reducing the barriers to as many people as possible to step into this kind of learning.

Jeff: [00:25:11] Yeah, cool. I know, looking at your website, there is a lot of focus on- it's interesting to me because so often with these courses that they're very focused on achieving a specific competency- in a software coding language, things like that. And in many ways, like you guys do do that, but the focus really does feel like it's on higher level learning, uh, almost like a university program.

Was that a conscious choice, uh, as you developed your curriculum? Uh, or is it something that you guys sort of happened into and found some success with it?

Margo: [00:25:49] It was a definitely a very conscious choice. We looked at, um, that there are, yes, there are technical competencies. There are also nontechnical ones.

That is about how you do what you do. That's part of differentiating yourself from someone else with the same technical capabilities. And, and again, that diversity of perspectives, of viewpoints, only makes for better- building better things.

And um, and so we did definitely do that in a very conscious way. And to have it as an integrated experience. That it's not, "you learn this and then you learn that and they're all separate functions." This is all part of how we operate. And if we're going to build thriving organizations, thriving cities, thriving economies, then we need the- an educational learning experience to reflect how life actually works, which is not in these lovely, separate little boxes.

So that was a very conscious choice that we made, to have it be part of a whole, the whole experience.

Jeff: [00:26:49] Cool. And, uh, like some other design... I'm actually not sure about this, I just want to confirm this for myself. Like some of the other re-skilling programs, you guys are primarily, your registration comes through people who are currently on EI or have qualified for EI in the past, right? It's government funded? For the, for the learners?

Margo: [00:27:08] So there are a certain number of seats- there's, it's an integrated training program, which is a fantastic program that is provided, both, both support from the government of Alberta and the government of Canada.

And what that program does is it provides a certain number of seats and they wanted to make sure that they... they kind of spread those seats around a bunch of different approaches because our approach isn't going to fit for everybody. You know, another organization is, their approach isn't going to fit for everyone, so let's make sure we're providing as many as possible.

If someone qualifies based on either unemployment or underemployment, then the government pays their tuition. And they get to continue collecting their EI so it doesn't affect their ability for that. And they still have some way of making a living while they retrain themselves.

So we get 40 seats per cohort that are funded that way, and then people are also able to pay for it directly as well. So even if they don't qualify for that, they can, um, they can pay for it directly.

Jeff: [00:28:07] Cool. So how many people are in a cohort then? On a, in a nutshell, on average.

Margo: [00:28:12] Generally we have between 40 and 50 in a cohort, and that's generally been the numbers that we've had.

Our first cohort was significantly smaller, it was a pilot. So we started with the, with the EvolveU program. We did start, our very first cohort was in September, 2018. And, uh, it was 11 people who took a chance on a program that had never been run by people they'd never heard of.

And it, it worked. And we were really fortunate to have some support from the Hunter Family Foundation to help us get that pilot off the ground and test some things out.

We started at cSPACE, which is another fantastic building in Calgary. And then we moved into the library space and we were able to grow the program significantly as a result of having that larger space. Um, and... it was after- that all started after about two years of iteration and testing out minimum viable products prior to that- of both the technical and the nontechnical, and then we weave them together.

Jeff: [00:29:10] I'll tell you one thing. You guys I think are winning the Coolest Environments to Learn In for any school-- cSPACE for those who don't know Calgary, is a very cool, multi-use space.

Margo: [00:29:21] Yes! We've been very lucky in every space we've inhabited.

Jeff: [00:29:25] Well, okay, so then let's move on to a topic that's... not as fun.

Uh, you've, you're in these very cool spaces. You're in the public library, which is brand new and central and beautiful. And then you're kicked out of there. Uh, and in an instant you had to move everything online.

Now, I guess my, my first question is, uh, had you thought about doing online teaching before, uh, and if so, were you sort of mentally prepared to do this? Or has this been a real rollercoaster.

Margo: [00:29:57] Uh, you know, all it did was accelerate something we'd been talking about. Right? Um, the ideally where we like to see that we go is that you don't have to come into Calgary. And you don't have to come into a large city to be able to access development for yourself.

And so we'd been talking about it. It was something that, "Oh, we'll get to it one day." And this [COVID-19 situation] meant: flip the switch, do it now.

Um, and so we've had to iterate, and it was... We had shut down our in-person delivery on uh, effective the 13th of March, and then effective the 16th of March. That was it. And we couldn't even go into the space to use the hardware that we have in the space to deliver. Um, and we restarted on the Monday thinking, Oh, this'll be fine.

And then, uh, the world changed again between 9:30 AM and 1:00 PM. And we brought everybody back together and said, "while we all still have freedom of movement, let's take this week off."

And we, we wanted the learners to have a chance to get their affairs in order to, to figure out some things. Some of them had relatives that were out of the country and they needed to figure out how to help them get back. There was all sorts of stuff going on, so we paused.

It also gave us a chance to relook at and do all sorts of research into what is feasible when you switch from in-person to online. And it's not a direct translation. It's not that you're going to be able to sit in front of a camera from nine to five every day and now we're just going to do it through a camera.

There's lots of different design and how people learn and the amount of time that they can sit and focus... We had to take all of that into account and restructure how we approached it.

So we did restart fully online as of March 23rd, and it's been going pretty smoothly ever since. There are some things that we've incorporated that take into account the current circumstances we're in. So we're looking after the human as well. Um, we've adapted and we've. Asked the learners to do some self evaluation and adapt their expectations for themselves as well.

What we found is some people are totally thriving in it, right? They're so happy to work away at home. They've got their chance to connect and engage with people virtually, and then they work away on things.

And there are some other people that, the reason they had selected an in-person program was they wanted an in-person program. They really need that.

And so we've asked people and said to them, "Hey, we can adjust your learning accordingly?" And we can help with, you know, if you're determining that based on the current circumstances, I might not get through understanding and learning the full stack. We're saying, okay, so then what portion can you get through and how do we help you? Learn as much of that as you can and learn it as best as you can, so you truly understand whatever it is that you are able to get through in the time we have. Because the world changed.

Jeff: [00:32:52] Yeah, it's true. Uh, so from a practical standpoint, did you have learners who didn't have access to computers at home or anything like that? And how did you help them overcome that?

Margo: [00:33:08] Well, luckily through our program, one of the prerequisites was that they had to have a laptop. And they didn't have to have the best, fanciest, most expensive laptop [but] they did have to have a laptop.

And we did have people who, you know, their laptops weren't... they were on their way out anyway.

And so we were able to help one person because someone in the program, um, had an extra laptop and they got it to them. One of the instructors.

Otherwise we've been okay. Um, what's been a challenge for some people though, is the kind of internet connectivity they have. You know, even as we're having our conversation, depending on how many people in my house are online, it, you know, Zoom can speed up, can slow down, can get choppy, and so we have to adapt to that as well and make it as accessible as possible for as many people as possible.

And so we do the best we can. They do the best they can. And that's what we've, where we've gotten to.

Jeff: [00:34:04] Yeah. That's cool. Uh, it's a really interesting, uh, challenge to see how different organizations have- cause everyone's had to do it. So to see how people are doing it, uh, is really interesting. Cause when faced with you know, a new situation and not necessarily having planned for it, uh, people come up with really creative solutions.

Margo: [00:34:26] And what's really important too, and we're really reinforcing this within our team ourselves, uh, as well as with the learners, is this is a really different environment. And this is a really different global situation.

Online learning aside is a different environment. The circumstances we find ourselves in- some days you're not, you might sit there and, and be working away for hours and realize nothing went in. And that's okay.

Jeff: [00:34:57] Yeah.

Margo: [00:34:57] You might find that you don't want to talk to anybody. Do anything. Engage with anything. And that's okay. You have to listen to yourself because otherwise just putting in the hours isn't going to actually deliver the outcomes.

So we're trying to help support them, again, on the human people side of things. In... listening to themselves, listening to what they need, reaching out whenever possible.

And part of what we built into the structure of the program that we- we had versions of it in person, we did it really consciously- was creating rituals.

So we have a morning check-in, a morning circle, every single morning. And a checkout at the end of every day. The morning one tends to be more focused around reflection and around your learning and what are you setting up for yourself today and so on.

The end of day is really a, "Hey, how are ya?"

And what we find is that the morning check-in, the the numbers are very high. It gives people something to look forward to. It does give that connection and that touch point.

Sometimes by the end of the day, people are done, and they might not check out and we tend to do fun things more often in the afternoon.

And it's become something that they really look forward to. And that helps them start, it's like that turning on the engine at the beginning of every day that we've found is really important in this time so that we are physically distanced and yet we are socially connected.

Jeff: [00:36:29] Yeah. That's interesting because also just that, I'm sure you're aware of this, but that mirrors the sort of agile morning standup that a lot of them are gonna move into when they move into a company that's in the industry. So they're already picking up some practical skills.

Margo: [00:36:48] And that's how we tried to shape the whole program as well, as that it does reflect being in that agile environment. So in person, they used to do their morning standup. Then we added in the morning circle. So they do circle and then stand up in their teams and off they go for the day into the content delivery.

Um, and it is. We want them to be immersed in what it is to be in an agile environment because again, that's the way the world works now.

Jeff: [00:37:13] That makes sense. That makes a ton of sense. So now, uh, now that you've sort of entered this brave new world of online learning, is that something you guys are looking in- I mean, obviously you have to keep doing it until we don't have to keep doing it, but, uh, has it unlocked some ideas and some potential in your minds of ways to expand reach and make it more accessible?

Margo: [00:37:33] Huge. If we look at where a lot of focus is going in some of these higher level global discussions, it has simply spotlighted things that needed to happen anyway.

And so there is quite a focus on health and education going forward and what's needed. And so again, it's simply accelerating some thoughts that we were having.

What I'm finding is happening as well is... we knew that there were pockets of us around the world that were looking  at learning differently. And had talked about, you know, "we should have some kind of, you know, even if it's an online conference or something where we all get to know each other."

Well, we're reaching out to each other now and creating opportunities between organizations that any one of us couldn't do on our own. It takes all of this. The need is greater than any one organization can meet.

And so we're finding that we're connecting with each other saying, well, you do this part, we do this part. What does it look like to design it brilliantly for virtual delivery?

So that when we have the chance to reconvene again, now when we're physically together, the acceleration of the learning and the connection and the meaning of being together in person is that much more because we've been learning and connecting in between virtually in a really meaningful way.

Jeff: [00:38:51] Yeah, totally.

Margo: [00:38:52] We've taken the foot off the brake, um, on that, like, "we'll get to it." And we've put it on the gas.

Jeff: [00:39:00] Yeah. We, we've been having some fascinating conversations with lots of people who were sort of in a similar situation where it's something they always thought of and now they're like, well, I guess we might as well do it.

Margo: [00:39:10] Yeah, that's right, and it's- meaningful learning is not a passive experience.

Jeff: [00:39:15] Then that brings me back to the learning how to learn. I love that idea as a sort of an overarching goal. Because in some ways the subject matter *doesn't* matter.

Margo: [00:39:27] It's that overarching framework. And I mean, can you imagine if what we did, um is you spend... Let's say you get to postsecondary and all you did was spend your first two years learning how to learn? And then you picked where you wanted to go with that? And now you've taken that, you know how to get to an understanding of something, you're applying it in a specific technical field now.

"Uh, yeah, I think I'm going to take this into, um, into engineering. I think I'm going to take this and to the arts. I think -[etc].

You know[that] you know how to learn anything.

Jeff: [00:40:00] Yeah. I did that by dropping out of university twice.

Margo: [00:40:05] [laughing] I ended up changing my major so many times that they were like, "Will you pick one?" Like, how do I pick *one*? It's all so interesting! This isn't fair!

Jeff: [00:40:14] My wife got a special certificate from SFU cause she did the same thing. She got a special, like a, an honors liberal arts thing cause she took so many electives.

Margo: [00:40:25] Yes. [laughing] As long as you didn't get the "thanks for coming out degree," you're good.

Jeff: [00:40:29] [laughing] That's fantastic. So taking this back to when we were chatting before I started rolling, we were talking about our careers and how there's sort of the soft skills you learn doing the things you do before you end up doing the things you love.

Um, do you find that with your, with your students, with your learners, that they have this untapped potential or untapped skillset that they just didn't know they had? They didn't know to how to apply it?

Margo: [00:40:54] Yeah. And so part of our program too is that we do career work with them as well. And not while the doing resumes and your LinkedIn profile and everything, that's very, very important. Absolutely. We also do that strategic level career work so that they can clearly articulate and even know for themselves what is a good fit for me and what are those skills that are transferable?

Simply because you're transitioning from one career field to another doesn't mean all the stuff that you've done before is gone and done. It can be transferred and we help them identify what are those key transferable skills groupings that they're now going to apply in a different area. And how do they want to do that and what's that overall fit for them so they can be doing something that is rewarding and fulfilling?

Again, if they're rewarded, if they're fulfilled with what they're doing, ultimately the organizations they work for are going to get a better fit employee and someone who delivers better things in their company as well.

Jeff: [00:41:52] As a chef, you had to have incredibly good time management. Uh, and it turned out that was hugely beneficial to me as a film producer. Really any job. But, but you don't think about it as being- nothing from chef should really be transferable to running a film.

Margo: [00:42:06] And what I found too, so, um, the career work is some of my favorite work to do with all of them. And what I've found and is where your real talents lie, it often comes so naturally to you, you don't think it's a big deal.

Jeff: [00:42:26] Yeah. You don't recognize your own talent.

Margo: [00:42:27] Yeah. "Well, anybody can do this. I mean, I just did it." Hmm. Yeah. No, no. That doesn't come naturally to everybody.

And, and it's so rewarding for us to see people have that realization within themselves. That just because it's easy doesn't mean it's not valuable and that..." I could get paid to do that?". Yeah.

Jeff: [00:42:47] What a nice realization that must be someone. That's wonderful.

This has been really great. Margo, thank you so much for, uh, for chatting. If someone wanted to explore InceptionU and see, look at your programs and see if they could benefit from them, where would they find you?

Margo: [00:43:08] So they can find us on uh, if they're looking particularly for the tech stream, they can find us at Both websites are linked to each other though, so if they go to one, they'll also find the other. And they can feel free to reach out to us through- we've got all sorts of social media going on, lots of ways to get in touch with us, and we're happy to engage with them.

Jeff: [00:43:31] Wonderful. Thank you very much for joining us. I really appreciate you taking the time.

Margo: [00:43:35] Thanks for having us.

Jeff: [00:43:37] There you have it. Bootcamps certainly seem to be filling a vital niche role in the re-skilling marketplace.

What we found really interesting in our research for this episode and in my conversations with our guests is the varied approaches they bring to the problem of re-skilling, even with a unified goal of helping people find new places in the workplace.

Measurable skills and learning how to learn are both things we all need in order to thrive in today's uncertain world. And there seem to be more and more paths to lifelong learning, opening up to all of us, if we keep our eyes and our minds open to them.

Well, that's it for this episode. We hope you enjoyed hearing from our guests as much as we enjoyed speaking with them. Thanks again to Alyssa Diehl from Manpower and Margo Purcell from InceptionU for their insights. For more information about their work, you can check the show notes for links.

ReSkilled is brought to you by Onlea, an e-learning production company located in the heart of Edmonton, Canada. This episode was produced by Beau Desaulniers, William Fritzberg, Mel Guille, Adriana Lopez Ferrero, and me, Jeff Woodward.

If you enjoyed this episode of ReSkilled, you can subscribe wherever podcasts are found. Please also consider rating and reviewing the show, it really helps us out.

Thanks for listening and we'll see you for the next episode where we're going to talk to a couple of students who have gone through bootcamps and get their perspective.

Thanks again for listening to ReSkilled.