CNBC Disruptor 50

Guild Education reaches $3.7 billion valuation amid labor shortage

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Key Points
  • Guild Education has raised $150 million from venture investors valuing it at $3.75 billion — more than triple its previous $1 billion valuation.
  • Guild helps companies such as Disney, Chipotle, Walmart and Lowe's offer debt-free degrees to employees.
  • Over the past year, nearly three-quarters of U.S. companies reported major talent shortages — the highest level in a decade.
Guild Education's Headquarters in Denver, Colorado
Guild Education

Guild Education has raised a $150 million Series E funding round, bringing the company's valuation to $3.75 billion — more than triple its previous valuation of $1 billion.

The Denver-based edtech company, ranked No. 49 on this year's CNBC Disruptor 50 list, helps companies including Disney, ChipotleWalmart, Taco Bell and Lowe's offer debt-free degrees to their employees.

"If you talk to CEOs at nearly any large company, they're focused on issues that hinge on getting the return to work right: safety protocols, culture, support for women and parents, and above all — recruitment and retention," co-founder and CEO Rachel Carlson told CNBC.

On Guild's platform, users can enroll in programs from high school to trades, associate's, bachelor's and master's degrees. The courses are usually flexible, and don't require a student to leave during the workday to complete a lesson or take an exam.

Chipotle has seen a 3.5 times higher retention rate among students enrolled in Guild programs, according to Carlson, and frontline employees who participate in the Guild programs are 7.5x more likely to move into a management role than peers not enrolled.

"For workers, education unlocks economic mobility, giving them a debt-free way to acquire new skills and credentials that are aligned with the future of work," she said.

Guild sees opportunity to grow among the 88 million working Americans that need to learn new professional skills to compete for jobs, and to supplant the traditional notion that first obtaining a college degree is the way to a good job. It currently offers between three and four million workers at major employers access to its platform, which helps the companies retain workers and "upskill" them into new roles and responsibilities. Workers receive access to education benefits, including tuition reimbursement and tuition assistance. 

Over the past year, nearly three quarters of U.S. companies reported major talent shortages — the highest number in a decade.

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Chipotle CFO says debt-free degree is a way to invest in employees

A significant portion of the domestic workforce also faces a major threat of being displaced by automation. According to Carlson, workers with no postsecondary education — nearly 90 million Americans — will account for almost 80 percent of all displaced workers by 2030. 

"Employers are facing a rapidly changing workforce, with major shortages today in fields like engineering, cybersecurity and data analytics that are only accelerating," she said. "As both employees and employers look to be competitive for the future of work, upskilling has quickly become the logical answer."

Guild says its new capital will be used to fuel the company's growth, doubling the size of its product and engineering team, while also investing in its payments and technology platform. Investors in the new financing include Bessemer Venture Partners, General Catalyst, Salesforce Ventures, and GSV.

Correction: GV, Alphabet's venture capital arm, is not an investor in Guild. An earlier version of this story misidentified the company among its investors.

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Guild Education CEO on training employees for the future