An Educated Guest

Ep.3 | Meeting Workforce Demands Through Apprenticeships


Guest: Dr. Scott Ralls, President of Wake Technical Community College

 

Todd Zipper, President of Wiley Education Services, welcomes Dr. Scott Ralls, President of Wake Technical Community College. Todd and Scott discuss the importance of apprenticeships and how they benefit both students and employers. Listen to their conversation on your favorite podcast platform.

Topics Discussed:

  • The reason community colleges are America’s opportunity colleges
  • The ways the Biden Administration could impact funding for community colleges
  • Why apprenticeships are considered the gold standard of workplace learning
  • How the WakeWorks Apprenticeship Program provides individuals with on-the-job training while also working towards a college degree
  • How education impacts economic mobility

Guest Bio

Dr. Scott Ralls became the fourth President of Wake Technical Community College in April 2019. Before coming to Wake Tech, he served as President of Northern Virginia Community College from 2015-2019, President of the NC Community College System from 2008-2015, and President of Craven Community College in New Bern from 2002-2008. He has also worked for the NC Department of Commerce, the U.S. Department of Commerce, and the U.S. Department of Labor.

He is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Distinguished Public Service Award from the North Carolina Chamber, and the Order of the Long Leaf Pine, North Carolina’s highest civilian honor.

Dr. Ralls earned his bachelor’s degree at UNC-Chapel Hill and master’s and doctorate degrees in Industrial and Organization Psychology from the University of Maryland.



View Transcript

Speaker 1:

You’re listening to An Educated Guest a podcast that brings together great minds in higher ed to delve deeper into the innovations and trends, guiding the future of education and careers hosted by the president of Wiley Education Services, Todd Zipper.

Todd Zipper:

Hello, and welcome to An Educated Guest. I am Todd Zipper. And today I am here with Dr. Scott Ralls, president of Wake Technical Community College, North Carolina’s largest community college, which serves 74,000 students. Scott has been a leader in higher ed since 2002, and has earned numerous awards, including the distinguished Public Service Award from the North Carolina chamber and the Order of the Longleaf Pine, North Carolina’s highest civilian honor. Scott clearly has a passion for higher ed and understanding some of the challenges that it faces. Excited to talk with him today. Scott, thanks so much for being here.

Dr. Scott Ralls:

Thanks, Todd. It’s great to be with you.

Todd Zipper:

All right. Let’s get started. You’re wanting the largest community college in North Carolina. What drove you to dedicate your career in this industry?

Dr. Scott Ralls:

Well, you said the word passion. It kind of started with a passion, some may have said an obsession back in the 1980s. When I was coming along in college, I worked in a small manufacturing facility and then later had the chance to study in Japan and became fascinated, a little obsessed, if you will, about robotics and automation and computerization at the time I’m an older guy. So it was when personal computers were just coming along in terms of mass use and robotics on the workplace floor. And I had worked in a little facility where we didn’t use advanced technology and then was able to see these amazing things in Japan, on the shop floors of highly roboticized manufacturing facilities.

Dr. Scott Ralls:

And it made me think what’s going to happen to the people I worked with. What’s that transition about? So I began studying that. That was from a research perspective and decided that I wanted to be in a place where you do something about it. And I think that’s where community colleges are. I think about the technology waves and now we see new waves in terms of when people talk about AI and all that goes into that I think community college has helped people get on top of the waves to ride the waves and not be bowled over by the waves. And that’s what led me to community colleges.

Todd Zipper:

That’s great. So on that note, let’s not assume everyone knows what community colleges are, the role they play in our country. Can you elaborate a little bit here and maybe debunk some of the misconceptions we hear about community colleges?

Dr. Scott Ralls:

Well, I think community colleges are America’s opportunity colleges and we are unique. One of my mentors was a great educator, a long time university of North Carolina president named Bill Friday. And one time he very pointedly said to me, don’t ever forget that community colleges are America’s great gift to education that public schools started and were brought to America, and universities started at other places and came to America. Community College started in America and it was about opportunity. Mostly, in terms of providing opportunity for military returning home from World War II. It was kind of a Genesis for many, but for a place like North Carolina, our roots were in the notions of words we use today, like equity and economic mobility, but it was about how do you make opportunity beyond high school, which was becoming more the opportunity for economic advancement, widely available beyond high school.

Dr. Scott Ralls:

And so community colleges are, I like to say, we are as proud of our inclusivity as some parts of higher education are of their exclusivity. We serve the top 100% and we’re very, very proud of that and proud that we play a role where we hope everyone can succeed and that our communities thrive. And that’s what makes us unique that we are very focused on our communities. We’re local, we’re not franchises. We don’t worry about a national brand, but we do obsess about making sure that we’re impactful for our communities and all the people who live in our communities.

Todd Zipper:

And Scott, it seems like the new Biden administration seems very positive on the role of community colleges. And I know you were just in DC. Can you talk a little bit about this and whether you see increasing funding flowing your way?

Dr. Scott Ralls:

Well, I think it could happen. obviously we’ve seen advances in the past through different kinds of the TAC grants during the Obama administration. I have a feeling that president Biden is highly impacted by someone who I used to work with, who was a colleague of mine at Northern Virginia Community College. And that this is his wife, Dr. Jill Biden, who was an English instructor at Nova Northern Virginia Community College. When I was president there. And I know her passion for community colleges is built on, not theory, but what she sees everyday in her classrooms, the impact that happens to her students, her passion is incredibly genuine. And I know having had the time to interact with her and a little bit with the president that, that rubs off on the person she lives with and has had an impact on him.

Dr. Scott Ralls:

And she was very much impactful in the Obama administration. Certainly the first community college summit, I think was credited towards her impact. And I feel pretty strong. She’ll have an impact in this administration. And I think for all of us in community colleges, we’re very gratified to have any form of attention, any form of opportunity that may lead to funding, but that form of recognition and particularly for someone who knows us so well. And is part of us like Dr. Biden and will have an impact on administrative goals, I’m sure.

Todd Zipper:

That’s great. So I want to jump into one of the main topics today, which is around apprenticeships and the key role that they play in our post-secondary system. And this century old practice that seems to be commonplace in Europe and other areas of the world, but not so much in America, I think the stats say that 5% of young people train as apprenticeships, the overwhelming majority in the construction trades, whereas it’s about 60% in Germany. This was an article from the Atlantic that I’m citing and they even are in areas like IT, banking and hospitality. So, first, can you define what an apprenticeship is and why it is so important to our system?

Dr. Scott Ralls:

Well, apprenticeship it really the gold standard of work-based learning and and work-based learning takes many forms, but it is being able to combine the great benefit of on the job training and on the job experience with both classroom and shop training and education often that occurs at community colleges or other forms of educational institutions. As you mentioned, its roots are very much beyond the US, certainly I was on with two German companies this morning and you never have a conversation with a German company when it does not focus around attention, the Scandinavian, Swedish and other countries, where there’s just, that’s the way you do business. I think that one of the things that’s unique for them, they also think for the longterm. So it’s without long-term investments, it is an investment by companies. I’ve worked with many great companies, particularly Siemens and Bosch Siemens and others who’ve, but it’s a significant investment for them.

Dr. Scott Ralls:

But when they look at the long-term returns, it doesn’t seem as such a great investment. If they were just looking at it over a year period, then it seems like an investment. I think the challenge a little bit for us in the US is we tend to still be very either, or. It’s something that, yeah, you do with construction or manufacturing, but not other sectors. And I think many are finding, that’s not the case. For some, too, it’s also been either, or, either. Either you’re an apprentice or you’re a college student. No, you very much can be both. In fact, it is greatly beneficial when you are both, when you can have a college degree credentials of meaning and job experience. And by the way, have a job while you’re actually pursuing that college degree. So, for students, it’s the best of all worlds. And I think for companies it’s a real foothold into building a strong, sustainable workforce.

Todd Zipper:

So, yeah, so it sounds like we have a PR problem here, because if we get about 220,000 new apprenticeships here, and we, I guess have about 4 million students graduate from college, bachelor’s, associate, masters and up, that’s a very small percentage. And so what do you think we can do to sort of improve the image of it given it’s, like you said, the gold standard of workplace learning?

Dr. Scott Ralls:

It’s in some ways kind of a unique PR problem, because on the one hand, it seems like everyone loves apprenticeship. I mean, you talk to a lot of companies and they’re like, “Oh, we need to do more apprenticeship.” Well, if apprenticeship is the best thing in the world, then why don’t more do it? And I think what we have to do then is in that regard, it is a unique PR problem because you rarely run into someone who says, “Oh, I don’t like the idea of apprenticeships”, but not nearly enough companies do apprenticeship and therefore many individuals don’t have those opportunities. I think we have to dig in a little bit and figure out why that’s the case. I think that I can just tell you what we’re doing here at Wake Tech through a County supported effort called Wake Works, which I give full credit to our County commissioners, particularly our chairman of the County commissioners, Matt Calabria, who came to us and said, “I want to make a difference, we want to make a difference as a County in terms of…”,

Dr. Scott Ralls:

He didn’t say apprenticeship, but he described ideas around skills, gaps and opportunities, and through collective conversation that led to apprenticeship. And that led to investment at our college where we have a team of folks to go out and work with companies to either sponsor apprenticeship on behalf of the college for them, or help companies register and become apprentice level companies trying to take the sting or the little bit of what some are afraid of the administrative burdens out. And so that’s one attempt. And then also to incentivize, to provide scholarship support for those students who are apprentices so that at least for that part of costs that companies may have paying for one of their employees, students to go to college, we want to incentivize that.

Dr. Scott Ralls:

So in some cases we have probably not been as strong about that as States are, as a country, I know in North Carolina a decade ago, if you were apprenticeship company, you had to pay a fee to be registered. Well, we need to kind of step back and figure out if this is so important, which I do believe it is, then how do we make it easier for companies and for our students and for individuals to be able to be part of these apprenticeship opportunities?

Todd Zipper:

Yeah, the data seems pretty conclusive that according to apprenticeship.gov, 94% of apprentices who complete apprenticeship retain employment, have an average salary of $70,000, which is quite good, and I’m guessing greater than a lot of bachelors graduates. So switching to this Wake Works program, it seems like you’re modifying the standard apprenticeship model quite so moving beyond trades into areas like healthcare and IT some really in demand fields right now, especially in the research triangle you’re in, I noticed also you have this Propel Program. Maybe you can talk a little about that too. How you approach the market, both with this apprenticeship program and this Propel Program.

Dr. Scott Ralls:

Wake Works, that brand has kind of taken on a brand for us. So our programs, Propel, which is a short term accelerated almost think of it as bootcamp type approach to provide a foothold to jobs and a foothold to degrees. That’s one element, but Wake Works apprenticeship is those particular engagements with employers in Wake County to become apprenticeable, to become apprenticeship, registered apprenticeship companies and our team working with them and to provide funding, to provide scholarships support in that regard. One of the things that we do a big part of that is pre-apprenticeship. Trying to work to develop shorter term programs that can lead to alternative credentials, that then can become a kind of a hiring pool for individuals to hire from providing engagement for people throughout communities, and then present folks for apprenticeship opportunities. And so part of our goal is to keep cultivating and bringing in more and more companies across more and more sectors for those opportunities and then create these pre-apprenticeship programs.

Dr. Scott Ralls:

And then the apprenticeship programs typically happen through our degree programs where that becomes the related training and it kind of flips the model, if you will. So the traditional model has been that I go to school, I graduate and then I go look for a job and I find a job, or I hope to find a job. Well, the apprenticeship model is have this opportunity where you can get a job. And then you train for that job as you go along, both on the job and through a college like ours. And I think for companies, particularly in a tight labor market, they find that’s a way to get to students early and to give them an opportunity where they’ll stay with them because it has this progressive wage structure.

Dr. Scott Ralls:

Once I get through that, I’m sort of on a probationary wage period. And then they know that coming down the road very specifically written into the process. There will be a wage bump once you accomplish this. So, for students, for the individuals, they see that straight line, what that opportunity is going to be. And for the companies, they get that foothold very early with great employees and help cultivate them along the way, but also build that loyalty back to the company.

Todd Zipper:

So I noticed on your [inaudible 00:13:31] some of the career options are really quite amazing from software developer, using Python to central sterile processing technician to robotics technician. It seems like if you read between the lines, the employer demand for the jobs that they have available is kind of showing up in the programming that you’re designing at the college. Can you talk a little bit more about how you make some of these programming decisions?

Dr. Scott Ralls:

Well, and that’s really not by accident. So, we really look for those areas that what we talk about a lot at Wake Tech is ladders. We want people to ladder into the opportunities that exist in our region, and we’re fortunate we serve a high tap cup, so we have tall ladders, but how do you get from one run to the next? And so you were describing a lot of what we call our Propel programs. Those are those accelerated bootcamp type programs that lead to an alternative credential, a certification, a licensure and industry recognized credential. And those for us are foothold, what we call foothold programs. We want them to give individuals a foothold to a first job, but then credit into a degree. And they have a triple foothold when they can also be apprenticeable into an apprenticeship opportunity. And so you’ll see some of those types of programs where you would be able to gain a certification in an area like just pick one, like a mechatronics. Gain a certain certification, take that to a company, get a job, but then continue to get the degree in mechatronics by that.

Dr. Scott Ralls:

And that degree walks you two into the related training. It counts for the related training for the apprenticeship. And by ladders we mean that we won’t there never to be a stopping point on that ladder. So we partner with universities to create those strategic transfer opportunities. So something like mechatronics can transfer to East Carolina university and their bachelor of science and industrial technology, which they have a co-location partnership with us here at Wake Tech. So it’s the idea of being able to start manageable with training that leads to meaningful employment, walk that into a degree, walk that into potentially an apprenticeship and keep walking it forward to a lifelong career.

Todd Zipper:

So to do this, you have to be quite nimble when you started to initiate some of these changes, how did staff and faculty and other stakeholders feel about these changes? Did you face resistance? How is that going?

Dr. Scott Ralls:

No, it didn’t face resistance. I mean, in fact, I think with community colleges, you’ll find that there’s never a debate and particularly in North Carolina community colleges about whether the tight relationship with the job market with employers is appropriate. I mean, it just is because our ultimate goal is about how education impacts economic mobility and you can’t have economic mobility if you don’t have the economic side of that, the job opportunities. So, working very closely with our employer community is just part and parcel of who we are. So we don’t really ever debate that. I think what is the evolution at our college, and sometimes colleges like ours, is not thinking in terms of program ideas that well there’s either this program or that program, but how they come together to create, as we say again, more of a ladder, and that’s kind of a thing for us. We look at our own college as our region’s largest ladder college.

Dr. Scott Ralls:

We have great magnet institutions here, Duke University in Durham. They bring people in from all over the world to the research triangle. Many of them are going to go back all over the world again, we’re just the opposite. Everyone who goes to Wake Tech or almost everyone either lives in this County or the surrounding counties grew up into this area. But the challenge is will they be able to ladder into some of those great new opportunities, emerging opportunities? And we see that as our special role, but what that means is we can’t be either or, and sometimes you see this debate going on this skills versus degrees training versus education. Well, why should you have to choose? Because sometimes just the job training without the opportunity to further into a degree is like a ladder with only the bottom rungs, but a lot of higher education university, other types of degrees now, are like a ladder with the top rungs unreachable by people who they need to work go to school, not just go to school so they can get a job, and, that’s kind of where we are.

Todd Zipper:

So, you and I have talked about your finish first initiative, which I think is part of this ladder approach. Can you also explain what that is and how you’re making that work?

Dr. Scott Ralls:

Well, Finish first is the Wake Tech innovation, Dr. Kai Wang and data scientists in our innovation and effectiveness team were just very innovative in using data science to sounds like why doesn’t everybody do this, but we really kind of pioneered this a little bit so that we can use that data science to pinpoint for every stop-out at Wake Tech, how far away they may be from any type of credential, which can also be a short-term certificate that may be part of a degree that they were earning. And so it really uses that information to target those students who have stopped out for whatever reason. And the challenge with stopped outs at community colleges is that even though students stop out and intend to come back, the majority will eventually drop out. They don’t follow through on that intention to come back. And so we call out to our students, we’ve partnered with a group called inside track and reach out to each of our students.

Dr. Scott Ralls:

But now when you reach out, it’s not just encouraging them, “Hey, you need to come back. Here’s reasons.” We can say to them, “You are two classes away from this.” His is how close and here’s how to do it, and here’s… It’s really bringing them back in that regard. And what we’re working towards now is, is how we’re career mapping all of our degrees and trying to get to a place where we don’t just say to them, you’re two classes away from this credential, but also say, what does that mean in our workplace? What does that mean in terms of the job openings that are available with that credential? And then where could you go from there? So trying to bring that together, but use the data to have a more informed conversation with students about the benefits of returning and finishing what they started.

Todd Zipper:

Community colleges can be quite collaborative, have you thought about how you could help apply this new kind of process and technology to many of your peers out there? Like you said, this is a big problem when students stop out, they’re likely to drop out.

Dr. Scott Ralls:

Yeah. I mean, there’s no reason why it can’t be applied broadly. And actually we are through support. Like the John M. Belk Endowment and also the Lumina Foundation Support. And we’re partnering very closely with the UNC system, the University of North Carolina system and community colleges around the state. And because there’s multiple applications to it. For some of our students they may transfer without actually graduating here. So it’s sort of, we can it’s kind of the reverse transfer process, but we can go out to students who may be a couple of courses away we can indicate to them, what’s the next place they could go with their degree? What does that mean within our own market?

Dr. Scott Ralls:

Also, in terms of, you mentioned some of our propel courses, if they’re in a program that can lead to course credit in a degree program, reaching out to them to say, here’s what you’ve just completed. Now you’ve got a jumpstart into this, and not just what it means in terms of, yes, you can earn a degree. What does that degree mean in this labor market right now? And that’s what we’re trying to reach, and that’s the opportunity of the data and the collaboration.

Todd Zipper:

So you’ve talked a lot about this applied learning in a very local regional way, which is excellent, but you’ve also recently signed the national apprenticeship with Amazon, I believe. Can you talk a little bit more about that and how you’re bringing that into the institution?

Dr. Scott Ralls:

Well, the Amazon partnership, we are, it also has a local connection because Amazon has created one of their largest fulfillment centers in Garner, employing 3000 individuals. And so we’ve worked closely with them in that regard and they’ve made multiple investments in our region. In that regard, I had an earlier connection with Amazon when I was president at Northern Virginia Community College. And then they came to us with a very unique challenge when I was president there, they cloud computing, Amazon Web Services, which headquartered there in the Northern Virginia area behind Seattle, they said, “Can you create an apprenticeship program in your college in six weeks, that would be similar to the cloud apprenticeship in Seattle?” And we had a kind of a unique choice at that point in time because we’d never done anything like that. And on the one hand we tell them, “Well, maybe we should just say, we don’t know how to do that.”

Dr. Scott Ralls:

But we thought if we say yes, and we’re successful, it’s not going to be worse if we failed than if we said no, so we gave it a shot and we did well. And that led to further things like the cloud degree at Nova and other areas. So Amazon kind of turned to us based on some of those relationships based on their investment in the triangle, similar challenge, they had one mechatronics and robotics program. They were growing to four, I think they’re five now, across the country. And could we stand that up in a relatively short period of time to train the people who prepare the robotics and all the automation in the fulfillment centers and be one of those five hubs. And again, we said, “Yes, we can.” And we did it. And we just graduated our second cohort last Friday.

Todd Zipper:

So a couple of questions around the pandemic first is I know the pharmaceutical industry has got a lot of demand for its needs and products right now, and has a big presence in North Carolina. I believe your institution has been adapting to that. And so can you talk a little bit about that category?

Dr. Scott Ralls:

It’s a particular niche for us. One thing that’s unique about community colleges is that notion of being what is your community. And so you’ll see colleges we’re part of the ecosystem, but we also helped develop that infrastructure. And for us life science has been a big part of the 20 year or more development of that infrastructure. So, it is an area that felt like it never experienced any slowdown during pandemic. And it’s just kind of been a rocket ship moving forward, and we’ve seen huge investments and announcements just within the last six months, the largest in our state’s history with Fujifilm, [inaudible 00:23:56] Biotechnologies, Biogen, Eli Lilly, and Durham, just multiple growth. For us, we’ve been making bets in that regard for a long time developing infrastructure. So we’ve developed short term training programs that are entry points into frontline jobs with biopharma manufacturing companies, one called Biowork is part of the Propel program.

Dr. Scott Ralls:

So now you can take that free of charge in terms of laddering. It walks into our biopharma technology degree, and we’re adding another biotech degree, which is more of a lab based degree to go with that. We have dual enrollment programs with our high schools. We have early college high schools where you can gain those degrees while you’re in high school, we’ll create a second biotech. We have three of those, we’ll have one focus just on biotech and IT starting in 2022 at our new RTP campus. And then our partnerships with our university partners, we share the largest, I think, on the East coast biotech teaching factory with NC State University this on their campus. And so it provides the latest and kind of that upskilling that is needed. And so we’ve kind of developed this ecosystem. And so when you have the ecosystem, now the issue is just keeping the scale that ecosystem and it creates more opportunity.

Todd Zipper:

Yeah, that’s great. So also when the pandemic hit, everything went virtual community colleges are often very sort of in-person based, or certainly to a degree. How has your team adjusted to that? And what do you see going forward once things kind of get back to normal?

Dr. Scott Ralls:

Yeah, I’ve been very proud of the team here at Wake Tech, because I know institutions are their teams dealing with probably the biggest, most challenging year we’ve faced going fully virtual just a little over a year ago in March, a year ago. One thing I’m very thankful for at Wake Tech is the preparation that started six years ago, not knowing that a pandemic was coming down the pike at us, our County invested a lot in our technology infrastructure, which gave us kind of the redundancy and resiliency of the technology that we needed in terms of just the sheer infrastructure being, having all our courses on a learning management system, having all our courses accessible to synchronous technology, but probably the most important investment was a big focus on training and education for all faculty. And so when the pandemic hit about 60% of our faculty had already been through what we call in an Epic 30 training certification program for online education.

Dr. Scott Ralls:

And we just accelerated that through the summer. So when we came back by fall, every faculty member had been through that very rigorous training. So that put us in a good place in that regard, the place we made adjustments, and I think also lead the changes moving forward is while we were, I think, more prepared to be virtual with our courses, we weren’t as prepared to be as virtual with our supports, and our services. And we had to hustle in that regard, and figure out, well, if you’re not physically here, how do you be present? How do you be accessible?

Dr. Scott Ralls:

How do you use technology? And we did that. We found creative ways and things that we have to do at community colleges. Like we have food pantries in every one of our campuses where we had to convert those into food cards, where we could get food cards. And we gave out 4,300 food cards to students last year in lieu of our pantries, we had to convert all of our tutoring centers from places that students went to places they accessed. And at times that were beyond what we had had in the past. And I think that form of accessibility, that notion of a blended approach to what we do will be the ongoing change that takes place at our institution.

Todd Zipper:

So, before we wrap up, I want to get back to apprenticeships for a second. I was just reading that President Biden, endorsed Congressman Bobby Scott’s Bi-partisan National Apprenticeship Act of 2021, which is expected to create and expand registered apprenticeships, youth apprenticeships, and pre-apprenticeship programs. The committee estimates, the bill will create nearly 1 million new apprenticeship opportunities, which nearly doubles from where we are today and would be a great step forward. This is one of those rare things in higher education that has bipartisan support. What is getting in the way of success here?

Dr. Scott Ralls:

Well, I think something that we have to think about with all of this is at the heart of the types of education or what in apprenticeship turns would be called related training is typically very high demand, and sometimes expensive technical education. Whether that be moving into areas like IT, where you can see cyber apprentice shifts or cloud apprenticeships like we did with AWS, the mechatronics robotics, those areas are expensive. They are areas that you just don’t teach totally online a lot of times. They’re in high demand areas, so instructors can get other jobs other than teach. And so there’s a cost to that. And I think one of the challenges we talked about apprenticeship and everybody loves apprenticeship, but we haven’t always invested in apprenticeship. We’ve had bills for apprenticeship in the past, there haven’t been budget lines connected to apprenticeship, same thing with technical education.

Dr. Scott Ralls:

I often feel like the greatest gap in rhetoric and investment in education today is in really meaningful technical education. And so just like we’re talking about with bio, all the opportunities with biotechnology, biopharma manufacturing, doing clean room based training, that’s expensive stuff. It leads to rewards because it leads to meaningful paying jobs, but it is not something done on the cheap. And too often, I think, we have approached technical education a little bit on the cheap, and we haven’t really invested in technical education, meaningful technology, focused technical education in the ways that meet the rhetoric of what we say sometimes.

Todd Zipper:

So, the old safety ratio we need to execute on here.

Dr. Scott Ralls:

Well, we’re going to have to scale. So to grow it, we have to scale and scale means instructors scale means facilities that typically aren’t just your normal classrooms or equipment in that regard. And that scaling does take resource.

Todd Zipper:

Got it. So, Scott, any other innovations underway at Wake Tech we haven’t covered or anything you’re seeing with other schools that has your attention right now?

Dr. Scott Ralls:

I think when we look at innovation, I’m excited to see what happens coming out of the past year. I think for a couple of reasons, one is we quickly had to be innovative and I gave a few examples from Wake Tech and I’ve just been marveled at my colleagues from across the country, the innovation and resiliency of our faculty and staff and our students. And so we’ve kind of reinvented ways of doing things out of necessity. And I think you will see that continue. I think the other thing that happens that will spark innovation in the future is this resiliency and sense of confidence that comes from collectively dealing with a challenge.

Dr. Scott Ralls:

I mean, when you take an institution like Wake Tech with 70,000 students and you say in two weeks, “Okay, we’re going totally online.” That’s a huge challenge. The kind of challenging, not sure if you can really pull off, but once you collectively pull it off with a combined great number of innovations, but just great resiliency and commitment, it gives institutions like ours, I think, collective confidence to move forward and tackle some of the challenges that perhaps in the past we may have thought were tough to overcome. I think now we probably have a collective self-confidence, and a sense of how we can innovate that will propel us forward. And so I’m excited about that future.

Todd Zipper:

So, Scott, as we wrap up, I asked this of all my guests. One of our core values at Wiley is learning champion who has been a learning champion for you, and how has that person helped you in your life?

Dr. Scott Ralls:

I can’t pick just one, so I’ll pick two real quick. First, I’m going to give a shout out to my mom. She’s be 85 years old next month. She was a first grade teacher. And so I watched her just through that process, but she also was a voracious reader. And so she taught me a love of reading. And that’s, if anything, just being a reader, I think, has been core to that lifetime learning. And I’m going to give one shout out to, I mentioned my obsession, my passion around robotics and automation, I’ve reconnected with a professor from my grad school year. So it was a guy named Frank Levy, who Frank, when I went to the University of Maryland, I was not in his degree program. He was an economics instructor. I was not in his field, but I discovered his work. He was studying what happens to jobs with automation and robotics and changing work.

Dr. Scott Ralls:

And I found him and it didn’t take much begging. And he allowed me to be in his class and kept up with him and he went on and now he’s in North Carolina. He’s professor ameritas from MIT. He has an office at Duke, but we’ve reconnected. And I just kind of love being connected with him because it goes back to that time when I was exploring and trying to figure out what it was going to be for me. And he helped me along the way. And now to reconnect, that’s been a fun thing for me over the last couple of years.

Todd Zipper:

Scott, I’ve really enjoyed our conversation today. What you’re doing is absolutely game changing and I hope more institutions take notice. So until next time, this has been An Educated Guest.

Speaker 1:

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