MINNEAPOLIS -- From his office overlooking downtown Minneapolis from more than 20 stories up, where he is CEO of an innovative retail marketing firm with 250 employees in four states, it would be hard to view Chad Hetherington as anything less than a success. But some would glance at his resume, at the blank space where “education” would be listed, and think just that.
“It’s kind of expected of people in the U.S., which I’ve learned in the last 15 years,” said Hetherington, 40, who came here from his native Australia in 2007. “It’s kind of expected of you to go to college, and the perception of you if you don’t go is you’re kind of a loser. I’m not a believer in that.”
So Hetherington’s company, The Stable, is trying something different. Starting on Monday, Oct. 4, they are embarking on a unique talent search. The Stable will be accepting videos from people who do not have a college education, but are creative, hungry and looking for an opportunity to learn on the job.
The 15-month apprenticeship they have in mind is not just an experiment. The Stable was founded in 2015 with two men on laptops working from a conference room at the Minneapolis Club. They started with the idea of reinventing the retail broker model that has been around forever, and helping brands adjust to the new world where people buy from brick and mortar stores like Target, from online retailers like Amazon and directly from manufacturers. Their sights are set way beyond a kind of short-term internship.
“It’s a paid position, and we’re going to pay them well. We’re still working out the details, but we think it will be life-changing,” said Hetherington, who admitted he might be the only current employee among the 250 people on The Stable’s payroll who doesn’t have a degree. “I’m looking for that person who sends in a video and says, ‘I couldn’t get into college for financial reasons or family or health or whatever it is, and I’m working 2-3 jobs right now just to make ends meet.’ I’m looking for someone like that who’s pushing hard in life and just hasn’t had that opportunity yet. I want to give them that opportunity.”
They hope to pare the submissions down to a handful of people who will interview in person, and expect to have an apprentice on-site by early 2022.
“What we want to do is hear their story, why they didn’t go to college and what they’ve been doing for the last few years,” said Hetherington. “We’re looking for real life experiences, which I think is going to be interesting to watch and see who is out there.”
It is a relatively new idea, but not one that is unique to The Stable. With college costs rising and the pandemic playing havoc with college enrollment nation-wide, more people are seeking new avenues into the professional world. And more companies are willing to take on employees that they will train in-house.
“To work at Google, you don’t need to go to college,” said Chuck Hughes, the founder of Massachusetts-based Road To College, an admissions consulting firm. “A lot of these companies are now doing their own testing and training and assessments that aren’t based on your GPA and where you went to school.”
People around these parts might remember Hughes, 51, as the Harvard goalie who broke the hearts of local hockey fans, backstopping the Crimson to an overtime win over the Minnesota Gophers in the 1989 NCAA title game in St. Paul. He was an admissions counselor at his alma mater and worked for online employment website Monster.com before founding his own firm. From his base in the Boston area, Hughes sees some changes in the road to a career as well as the road to college.
“Two years ago certain companies like Wayfair and iRobot had already put into play programs where they were going into urban high schools and offering kids 18 months of programming training and paying $50,000 per year if they could get through the program,” Hughes said. “Companies are looking at alternative ways to get people who don’t want to wait four years or don’t have the money to pay for college for four years to get their careers started.”
That is not to say that college as we know it is going away anytime soon. Hetherington said that he absolutely wants his lawyer and his doctor to have their advanced degrees. But as one who has always been prone to trying new and innovative things, going back to his post-high school days in Adelaide -- a city of 1.3 million in South Australia -- where he learned to produce TV commercials on his own, he is excited about this initiative.
“We’re starting with one. If there’s an opportunity to do a couple more, we might expand it,” Hetherington said of the initial 15-month program. “If it works, we’re going to keep doing it. I think we could make it a big life-changing experience for some people.”
More information on the apprenticeship is available at thestable.com/apprentice.