There’s a new General Assembly
in town, and it has nothing to do with North Carolina politics.
A New York City-headquartered education startup backed by investors like Advance Publications, Wellington Management Company and some high profile angels has been making its way around the world training people in skills like digital marketing, data science, user experience design and coding.
Raleigh is one of 10 new cities to offer General Assembly programming later this year, in an announcement that also included an acquisition of a Canadian accelerator. Raleigh joins an existing lineup of mostly major metro areas—New York, Washington D.C., Atlanta, Chicago, San Francisco, Boston, L.A., Seattle, London, Hong Kong, Singapore, Sydney and Melbourne—along with similar-in-size cities like Austin and Denver.
Dallas also gets its first General Assembly presence.
But different from the other 15 campuses, Raleigh, Dallas and the other new cities won’t have permanent GA homes. Workshops, classes and events will bounce around at different venues and coworking spaces throughout the regions as the company tests the waters.
According to Anna Lindow, general manager of campus education and operations, it’s a different approach for General Assembly, a way to respond to growing demand for the company’s offerings without planting permanent roots in any one location.
“We saw organically a lot of interest come out of the Raleigh area, so that was a good signal for us that there is community there,” Lindow says.
By offering custom two-hour courses like say, an "Intro to the Raleigh Startup Community", or some of its traditional programming, it can gauge interest and build awareness both among students, potential instructors and employers.
Could there be a permanent campus someday? Lindow says “the sky’s the limit.”
The Triangle has been a popular place for code and tech skills education in recent years. Startup campuses like American Underground and HQ Raleigh have offered homes to the full-time immersive The Iron Yard Code School
(now in Raleigh and Durham) and part-time Tech Talent South
, respectively. Girl Develop It has held its coding and design workshops for several years here. And development firm Cactus Group launched the Django-focused Astro Code School last year (though no classes are currently scheduled).
Lindow says General Assembly is different because it offers a range of subject matter and length of courses. There are immersive 12-week programs, part-time courses and one-off workshops, as well as educational events. For now, 12-week programs will only happen at its traditional campuses and online.
Leading the charge in Raleigh will be a city manager, whose job description
is being circulated throughout the region now. Responsibilities include business development—hosting brand awareness events, meeting with potential GA employers, organizing partnerships—lining up speakers and instructors and executing all aspects of the program.
Venues and events will be announced once this person is in place, Lindow says.
Today's announcement marks General Assembly's first major expansion since the company closed a $70 million funding round
last September, bringing its total raised to nearly $120 million. At the time, about 240,000 people had participated in one or more courses or workshops in 14 cities around the world. Since then, a Denver campus opened, campuses in London and Singapore were expanded and 100,000 more students have enrolled in a program.
General Assembly was also named the No. 1 Most Innovative Company in Education by Fast Company, last year. Part of that distinction comes from doing very little like traditional higher education. There's no accreditation (and therefore no federal student loan programs), and rarely are professors or college instructors involved as educators. That's not what students want, Lindow says.
A lot of training goes into practitioners to teach both practical skills and theory that helps ready people for new careers or expanded roles in existing ones.
A team of instructional designers in New York work on some of the curriculum, creating "a GA point of view" on certain topics like user experience design. Employers are involved in the programming curriculum, for example, helping to tweak the languages taught based on their needs in each GA market. Data science has been a big emphasis as a result of their feedback.
Lindow explains the GA way as heavily influenced by startup culture or "bringing that sense of possibility and reinvention to everything we do."
But the organization has been inspired by other institutions too—like certain charter schools and Teach for America, a program several staff members have participated in.
It has also expanded beyond training individuals—through customized corporate training programs, instructors work with Fortune 500 executives and other teams on building workplaces and corporate culture appealing to the next generation of talent.
Lindow says that could be a target for the corporate tech-heavy Research Triangle region as well.
"Our goal is to help bring what we offer in education as well as talent and workforce development to more companies and communities," she says. "RTP has been on our list for quite some time, now it's time to build community and see the response."