Modern Guild Gets $500K From Jawbone Founder & Others To Bring Better Online Career Coaching To College Students

With unemployment and “under-employment” rampant among grads, many college students are facing the unpleasant reality of a less-than-appealing job market. As a result, students have begun turning to alternative resources to help them prep for life after college, whether that be through skill-focused online platforms like Skillshare or online educational resources like Modern Guild.

Founder Adrien Fraise decided to launch Modern Guild to address the fact that college students tend to be less-focused on academic paths that can lead to post-college employment than they should be – and employers struggle to find appealing candidates, when many are in fact eager to hire. In an attempt to help bridge this perceived gulf, Modern Guild offers college and college-bound students online career prep courses that are taught by real professionals and trained career coaches in live, one-on-one learning sessions.

After a pilot program last year in which 100 students at 10 campuses participated, attracting over 200 mentors, the startup is ready to launch its first “semester” and has just closed its application period, in which 4,000 students applied. Based on this early interest, Modern Guild announced today that it has raised $500K in seed funding from a handful of angel investors, including Jawbone Co-founder Alex Asseily.

The new funding will allow Modern Guild to build out its platform and prepare for its first round of classes, which are set to get underway this spring. While companies like Thinkful are trying to help veteran technical folks get hired at startups, and AfterCollege and MyEdu offer LinkedIn-like networking experiences and opportunities to connect with employers, Fraise thinks that there’s room for a more intensive, online educational experience that can help give students a “stamp of approval” heading into the job market.

Students are looking for anything that will give them an edge in a crowded post-collegiate market, so Modern Guild offers the opportunity for students to participate in a new kind of digital apprenticeship, with the platform matching participants with a personal mentor in their career field of choice. The courses run for eight to ten weeks and require students to meet with their mentors for at least one eight-hour-long class, interacting directly in a one-on-one setting with these mentors, who are either professors or professional recruiters, or who might lead their college’s career centers.

Through Modern Guild’s platform, students can videoconference with their mentors, connect with other guidance counselors or career coaches, learn about available opportunities, talk to other students who are looking for jobs in similar fields, and take preparatory interviews, to name a few. Along with completing the assignments from their mentors, of course.

However, as GigaOm reported this afternoon, the one potential drawback for Modern Guild is its high price point. Courses cost about $1,500. Although part of this cost goes toward paying the mentors for participating, it could price out a significant demographic, i.e. anyone not already suffering from loads of student debt.

Certainly, many students, regardless of where they fall on the debt spectrum, are willing to fork over tons of money for tutoring, counseling or coaching if they feel it will help them stand out in the job market. Modern Guild certainly hopes to appeal to those with a little more disposable income, or parents who are looking to help their students take their career paths by the reins, justifying a higher price point by providing more value — particularly in its live, hands-on, one-on-one approach to mentoring.

As sites like Udacity, Treehouse, Instructure, Coursera and dozens of others ramp up career service offerings around free course and learning platforms (and MOOCs), it will be more difficult for those in the old world of educational content pricing (like Princeton Review and Modern Guild) to stay above the rush of the more modestly priced. Especially when services like SoFi allow would-be mentors to actually invest in students to help them alleviate their debt and connect with post-collegiate employment opportunities.

That being said, Modern Guild has already shown that there’s a willing audience, as it’s already able to host up to 2,000 students. As to the value proposition, Fraise says, “by offering an intensive curriculum and staying selective, we think that our ‘stamp of approval’ can help give students a valuable edge for even those positions that are in high demand.” With the role of accreditation changing, its employers agree that Modern Guild is up to snuff as a new alternative to traditional apprenticeships or internships, then there’s a lot of room left to grow.

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