The Carnegie Council's U.S. Global Engagement program gratefully acknowledges the support for its work from the following: Alfred and Jane Ross Foundation, Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Rockefeller Family & Associates, Donald M. Kendall, and Booz & Company.
DAVID SPEEDIE: Welcome to the Carnegie Council. We're delighted to have back with us today an old friend, Ronald Bruder, founder and chairman of a highly enterprising and unusual enterprise, the Education for Employment Foundation [EFE].
Ron, welcome back to the Council.
RONALD BRUDER: Pleasure to be here. Thank you, David.
DAVID SPEEDIE: It has been just about six months to the day, believe it or not, since we last sat down.
RONALD BRUDER: Nothing has changed. It's exactly the same. [Laughter]
DAVID SPEEDIE: Well, actually some things have changed, and I want to get into that in some detail, because your organization is in the eye of the storm, as it were, to some extent.
RONALD BRUDER: I don't know about the eye, but we're in the storm for sure.
DAVID SPEEDIE: However, just for those few mortals left on the planet who do not know what EFE is, give us the executive summary of how it came to be and your motivation and the evolution of the organization.
RONALD BRUDER: It came to be because I had spent time in Ireland and I saw how the religious factions were much more harmonious when youth had opportunity and when youth had a future and potential. So almost ten years ago I started thinking about what could be done to make the Middle East a more stable society.
I was very fortunate. I brought on board as advisors brilliant people, a lot smarter than I in this area, such as people you know—Mokhtar Lamani, former ambassador of the Organization of the OIC [Islamic Conference to the United Nations]; Shibley Telhamim; Ellen Laipson; Jeff Smith; Alton Frye; Moeen A. Qureshi; Lee Hamilton—and this original nucleus started advising me, as well as the Brookings Institution, as to what could be done. I didn't want to just be another foundation. The world doesn't need more foundations. They need something that can actually have impact.
And I had been a serial entrepreneur, so I judge what I do by the impact it has, trying to create a bottom line.
I traveled to the region with several of my advisors. Mokhtar took out months of his life to travel to the region with me. Shibley traveled to Egypt. The other Board members were constantly in communication.
I came to the conclusion that the educational systems in the region were not optimally training for employment. So in some countries, Jordan for instance, unemployment there at the moment is 12 percent; unemployment for college graduates, 22 percent. In the United States, unemployment for college grads normally tracks at half of the unemployment in general. So there is a disconnect, and the more you learn, the less you earn, which is not exactly an optimal situation.
So we made a whole bunch of decisions, some of them sort of out of the box.
One is we do training only when we know where there are jobs. In the region, there is something called training fatigue. Youth take course after course after course. At the end of the day, they don't get the cheese, they don't get the job. We train and our goal is to enable 85 percent of our graduates to be gainfully employed.
Secondly, we made the decision to create standalone, semiautonomous affiliates. What that means is we're giving control of each of the affiliates to the locals. That was a decision that was made after a lot of discussion.
One of the Board members looked at us and said, "Do you want to create standalones, let them make all the major decisions?"
At the end of the day, we found the right people and were able to motivate people to go in the same direction, follow our mission. The results could be quite outstanding, and they have been.
DAVID SPEEDIE: Again, obviously, in this past six-month period since you were here, the various Arab Spring revolutions and so on and forth beginning, with Tunisia—I gather you got a call from Tunisia not long after—
RONALD BRUDER: I was there a few weeks ago for almost a week.
DAVID SPEEDIE: Tell me about what you're doing in Tunisia now.
RONALD BRUDER: It's very exciting. It's really a rebirth of a nation.
I meet a lot of ministers in the countries I go to. The new ministers in Tunisia are the most action-oriented, focused, seeking positive outcomes. They want to get everything done tomorrow. They want a democracy. They want jobs. They want education.
The people that I met with—the literacy in Tunisia is higher than in the United States. So they have tremendous potential.
You also, obviously, have the youth bulge and you have the same issues of employment. But this is a country that is focused on building a democracy that is focused on empowering their youth through employment, through citizenship.
I was astounded and very excited about the potential there. A few of our staff are going back next week to follow up on it.
We will be building a board, we will be hiring local staff, we'll find a CEO, and we will be implementing courses that lead directly to employment. We'll figure out what those courses are when we're there on the ground with the help of the board and the staff.
DAVID SPEEDIE: Obviously the events in Tunisia, which began the wave of Arab Spring uprisings across the greater Middle East, began with a tragic event, the self-immolation of a young vendor who was—
RONALD BRUDER: Frustrated, angry.
DAVID SPEEDIE:—to the point of—
RONALD BRUDER: Saddened.
DAVID SPEEDIE: Yes, absolutely.
This seems to get to the heart of what you do. The word that one keeps hearing about in all of these situations is the word "dignity."
I’m also reminded—for some reason, it made me think of the part of our Constitution, "the pursuit of happiness," which is actually by the way the creation of a Scottish Enlightenment thinker, Francis Hutcheson. He talked about "the pursuit of happiness."
But happiness, of course, here means, I think, from what I hear you saying, the right for, first of all, a decent education, an education that will lead to gainful employment, the kind of things that we take for granted.
Is that what you think you are trying to put in place, a sense of dignity and well-being in places where, obviously, this has been at a premium or not been available?
RONALD BRUDER: It's universal. I know there was a period early in my life when I was unemployed. It was a very depressing period. My prospects were good, I knew I was going to find something, but at the end of the day, at that particular moment, nobody wanted me, I wasn't loved or needed or productive. So you spend all day thinking about what you could do, what you didn't do. It’s very demoralizing, very degrading.
Especially in the Middle East, you have delayed marriage. Unless you have a job, the practical reality is you're not going to marry.
Here people are able to move beyond that. They can live together (not an option there). They can marry and elope (you don’t have that there). So a job is more than dignity, which is key to self-esteem and feeling good about life, but it also is a key to getting on with your life and being an adult.
DAVID SPEEDIE: The other part of this—you mentioned the fact that in Jordan and elsewhere the unemployment rate for graduates, counterintuitively, is actually—
RONALD BRUDER: Double.
DAVID SPEEDIE: —double that.
The other part of this is that in many of these societies, I think, the tendency has been for the government to create—I think when you were last here you said that really the old joke that I had heard about the Soviet Union—"We pretend to work and they pretend to pay us"—clearly, that was a sham.
RONALD BRUDER: It was welfare. The system enabled people to have some income so they weren't starving, but it also created a huge bureaucratic structure, especially in Egypt, where moving forward and getting things done was very difficult because of the size of the bureaucracy. And everybody had to justify their existence, and they did that by slowing up progress in the private sector.
There also had been for generations a belief that a good job is a government job. So people were shying away from private employment, shying away from being an entrepreneur. And the government can only employ so many people. The revenue isn't there. The countries we go to are not oil-rich countries, so you can't just say, "Okay, we'll hand out revenue to everybody, and if you want to work you can." They don't have those options. They also have very rapidly growing populations.
DAVID SPEEDIE: Tell me about your choice of countries. At one point, I think I read where you had said that you look for the situation where there is the greatest need and the greatest incentive for the young people. How do you choose? Clearly, the notion of taking on the toughest cases is commendable, but I would imagine also at times fraught or problematical.
RONALD BRUDER: I don't know that we take on—you're being very complimentary, David—I don't know that we do take on—
DAVID SPEEDIE: I thought I was quoting you.
RONALD BRUDER: We take on the toughest cases in terms of the youth, but we're not in some of the toughest countries. We're not in Pakistan or in Afghanistan.
DAVID SPEEDIE: But you're in Gaza.
RONALD BRUDER: Actually, we're not as active in Gaza as we had been because, quite frankly, the opportunity for youth to get employed there is de minimis and we couldn’t get youth out of there to the Gulf. So we have been doing some training in Gaza, but not on mission.
We've been training for the Bank of Palestine, training their existing staff, being paid for that with a small profit, and using that profit to supplement the work that we are doing in the West Bank. Not exactly our model, but we need to be flexible and we needed more funding for the West Bank, and it satisfies everybody's needs.
DAVID SPEEDIE: So flexibility really is the name of the game here. This is not a cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all approach.
RONALD BRUDER: No.
DAVID SPEEDIE: It can't be.
RONALD BRUDER: No, because the needs are so different when you go from country to country. We need to change as we go. As industries change, as labor needs change, we need to be on top of it. We need to figure out what the needs are going to be tomorrow and train so by the time our youth get out of their programs they can get meaningful employment.
DAVID SPEEDIE: What's the biggest surprise you had? What’s the one thing that you said, "Gee, I really hadn’t thought of that" or, "I really hadn’t expected that?" Or has there not been any?
RONALD BRUDER: The biggest surprise, I think, has probably been once we are up and once we’ve been operational, once we've been on the ground, the receptivity.
People say, "Oh, you're American. People are going to be not receptive. Do they see this as an American foundation?"
The answer is no. Or maybe the work is self-selecting and all the people who don't want to work with us don't show up at the party. But at the end of the day we have had a tremendous amount of local buy-in.
Yemen, for instance. We went to Yemen a little over two years ago. We suggested that if we were going to be in operation there, we wanted to see money, we wanted to see local contributions, we wanted them to have skin in the game. So we asked them for $50,000 as a show of good faith. We were bringing at the time $288,000 and we wanted to see $144,000. So we'd give them $2, they would give $1. The Yemeni had raised over half a million dollars locally.
Our chairman there, like our other chairmen, is very passionate, very devoted to the mission.
DAVID SPEEDIE: You mentioned, following up on that, that you're in the business of standalone entities, standalone foundations as you put it.
DAVID BRUDER: Correct.
DAVID SPEEDIE: This is not a central bureaucracy in New York with field offices.
RONALD BRUDER: No. These are branches, semiautonomous, with the goal of becoming self-sustaining. We don't want them to constantly need funding from the United States to survive.
DAVID SPEEDIE: That's working, the self-sustainability and local leadership?
RONALD BRUDER: It's working beautifully, yes. You know, some countries faster than others.
Egypt took a couple of steps back with the Arab Spring. The economy there is very uncertain. Tourism is dead. A lot of our donors that were putting in money have stepped back because they have their own issues. So that's not going where I would like in terms of sustainability.
But the other countries are doing well. And even in Egypt, I was talking to our CEO there, and recently we have two new clients who want us to train and employ, and they will pay us part of the cost of doing all that training, reimburse us for it. So it's exciting.
I think long term, if things go reasonably well in Egypt, as I hope they will, we will see a tremendous need for our work, and we are in a very good position.
DAVID SPEEDIE: At one point, you said in our last conversation the challenge is figure out where the jobs are and what tools are needed to educate youth and get them into the labor force. In reading about some of your country-specific cases, it seemed almost serendipitous. I think at one point someone, you said, in Jordan put their hand up and said, "What we need is—"
RONALD BRUDER: Land surveyors.
DAVID SPEEDIE: Is there just an element of real chance to this, or is this the basis of—
RONALD BRUDER: No. The structure is such that it enables that. The boards that we have in each of the countries are leading industrialists. The woman who raised her hand at that meeting is a leader of the business community in the country, knows where the jobs are needed, and has the wherewithal not only to know and hire but also write a check for part of the expenses. So they know.
One of the beauties that we hadn't really fully envisioned when we created the structure is it’s their country. We could never begin to go into these countries and figure out where the jobs are if we were just paying people do that. These people who work with us aren't consultants, they're a board member. They think of this as their foundation. We're the minority members. So it's their foundation. They feel it, they believe it, they put money in, they put time, they put effort. So it's a phenomenal way of moving forward. It has worked.
DAVID SPEEDIE: You used a term in one of the interviews that you had done, with Khaled Toukan, an MIT graduate, one of your consultants.
RONALD BRUDER: Former education minister in Jordan.
DAVID SPEEDIE: When you asked the question, "What is needed?" he said, "Soft skills." It's interesting, that term. We didn't really go into that last time. What exactly?
RONALD BRUDER: When he asked me about soft skills, I didn't know what they were.
DAVID SPEEDIE: Good. I didn't either.
RONALD BRUDER: I didn't have a clue. I said, "This doesn't sound serious. I want to do real things. I don’t want to do soft things."
The good news is we have an educational director, Amir Moghadam, who is our educational advisor, and he knew what they were because this is his expertise. The man is brilliant.
So I went back and sat down with him and said, "We need soft skills. Explain to me what they are and get me some of them."
Well, what it is is soft skills are work skills that don't fall into any curriculum.
What happened is, 60 days after I challenged Amir to find them, he did a joint venture between us and McGraw-Hill. They have a program called Workplace Success. What it does it is it teaches youth how to write a résumé, how to interview, critical thinking, team-building, leadership, how to dress, productivity, work ethic, how to speak in public, what to say at work, what not to say at work. It's kind of, excuse the expression, Dale Carnegie for the workplace on steroids.
DAVID SPEEDIE: The other Carnegie.
RONALD BRUDER: We use it in all the countries. Sometimes we use it by itself. Sometimes we add it to other specific trades or teaching mechanisms. But it has been very powerful.
I was in Cairo a while back and I saw graduates at Bank Misr who had gone through banking and soft skills. These were kids that had no self-confidence, no ability to work in a group. By the end of the program, they had organized themselves into four distinct groups and had come up with business ideas, out-of-the-box ideas—we teach them to think out-of-the-box—four of which were money-saving or revenue-creating ideas for the bank.
So powerful that two things happened. The bank is picking up on two of them and incorporating them. Second, the bank took out half-page ads in six local papers because they were just so gratified. We do a lot of their training and hiring now.
DAVID SPEEDIE: And these banks, I assume, may well become sponsors or underwriters of what you do?
RONALD BRUDER: Oh yes, they do.
DAVID SPEEDIE: So there's a real symbiosis here.
RONALD BRUDER: Yes.
DAVID SPEEDIE: You're creating the jobs. You're putting the youth to work. You're educating them, you're putting them to work, they are finding places in the work environment, and then the work environment, in the form of banks or whatever, become underwriters for the next round, so to speak.
RONALD BRUDER: Yes.
Even more interesting—because that's expected—what I didn't expect is last time I was in Cairo, 60 percent of our graduates are donating back. These are youth. There's no longstanding tradition of that kind of philanthropy. But they are so pleased to have a job. And we don't solicit, we don't pressure—I don't know if we really even ask.
One of the things that we do that has been powerful is we create strong alumni associations, where the alumni meet and they mentor. They get mentoring, they give mentoring, and they also get for free courses that they normally would be charged thousands of dollars for.
Manpower, one of our strong supporters, through David Arkless, who runs their international operation, gives us for free access to their curriculum, 3,600 courses. So all of my alumni can just go online, log in as an EFE affiliate graduate, and they can take courses. They love it. So they continue to grow and build each other.
DAVID SPEEDIE: I think I read somewhere that by 2013 you’ll have 5,000 graduates. Is that what I read somewhere?
RONALD BRUDER: You read it but it's wrong.
DAVID SPEEDIE: My apologies.
RONALD BRUDER: No, no, not you. You read it correctly, but it was a misquote. By 2012 we’ll have 5,000 graduates that year if things go as we anticipate. We're going to have over 2,000 graduates this year, up from 1,300 graduates last year, up from 1,000 graduates for the prior three and a half years. We are growing exponentially.
DAVID SPEEDIE: An obvious question also seems to be replicability and building, being more than the sum of individual parts. Do you bring people to New York or elsewhere in the region to share experiences?
RONALD BRUDER: We do. We've had retreats in New York for all of our CEOs to get together and discuss best practices.
We had all of our CEOs and almost all of our board members in Marrakesh for the World Economic Forum. We had a few days before the Economic Forum where they all gathered and we had discussions, where all the CEOs and all the chairmen shared experiences and best practices, because we've truly become a network.
The sum of the total of the parts far exceeds the individual pieces. They work together. They share knowledge. They share curriculum.
We built a beautiful sales course for Morocco that we had polished at Harvard. Now that's being migrated and translated, and we'll have it in Arabic, English, and French. It will be used across the board where necessary.
DAVID SPEEDIE: I was going to ask you if you've written all this up. I mean if ever there was an economics manual for the 21st century with practical applications, this would seem to be it. I know you're a businessman, you're a doer, but are you going to hire someone to write the history of EFE?
RONALD BRUDER: We may. Actually, there's a journalist who is interested in pursuing that. The journalist happens to be my daughter.
DAVID SPEEDIE: She's at Columbia?
RONALD BRUDER: Yes, she's a Columbia adjunct professor and writes for The Times, et cetera.
DAVID SPEEDIE: The last time you said, "If it bleeds, it leads." You said this doesn't bleed.
RONALD BRUDER: No, it doesn't bleed.
DAVID SPEEDIE: And she's still interested in doing this story?
RONALD BRUDER: She also shares the passion.
DAVID SPEEDIE: Good.
RONALD BRUDER: She has traveled to the region, she has seen the graduates, and I'm her dad.
DAVID SPEEDIE: You go back pretty often yourself.
RONALD BRUDER: Yes.
DAVID SPEEDIE: Although you very much encourage the flowers to bloom in the local situation, you do visit the region.
RONALD BRUDER: I'm there every few months, yes.
DAVID SPEEDIE: And for an extended period?
RONALD BRUDER: I was there for a little over two weeks last time, which was last month.
DAVID SPEEDIE: A question about once the young people are trained. It occurred to me to wonder, do they stay in the places—and I'm thinking at this point of places like Gaza and Yemen; you talked a little about a shift of strategy in Gaza a minute ago—but, in other words, in the most difficult situations, do they stay and work in their place of origin even though that's where the greatest need is, or do they tend to go to the Gulf, for example, where there may be more money to be made? Is that important to you, that they stay in their native workplace, or simply that they get trained and have the opportunity to work wherever it may take them?
RONALD BRUDER: To give you a really clear answer, yes and no.
DAVID SPEEDIE: Okay.
RONALD BRUDER: I can be like a lawyer—"on one hand, but then on the other hand."
DAVID SPEEDIE: Absolutely.
RONALD BRUDER: It depends.
In Gaza, most of our graduates left and they got employed in the Gulf. Better than having them sitting unemployed in Gaza. They were remitting back over 90 percent of what they earned.
When possible, we shoot for enabling our graduates to stay in the country. But we're also realistic. If they leave and they go to another country, mostly the Gulf, and they earn some money and they send money back and they come back—
Like one of the programs that we are moving forward with is to build a world-class nursing program in Yemen. We just got funding from the IFC [International Finance Corporation] to do that. Unfortunately, the people who were supposed to go to Yemen to get the program started, for some reason they're not flocking there. I don't understand why. [Laughter] But as soon as things settle down, we will move forward, and—inshallah—build a world-class nursing school, taking older women—older, not too old, but women that have a college degree, that are unemployed—and teaching them to be a world-class nurse, giving them a BSN in nursing, with an affiliate U.S. nursing school. We are talking to one now. So that that will happen as soon as things settle down.
On the other side, I was on the phone with our CEO last week, and attendance is 100 percent at all of our classes in Yemen. Graduations, employment—everything is "business as usual." As much as people are protesting, people desperately want to work, and we're an answer.
DAVID SPEEDIE: Yemen is a good segue for the next question, which actually came up in the discussion last time you were here. That is, whether training and your overall focus takes place mainly in the major metropolitan areas, in Sana'a for example, the Yemeni capital, or whether you get really out into the regions as it were. I can't quite recall what the answer to that was, whether you're really focused on the capital and the major metropolitan areas or whether this is—or do they come to the capital from the regions? What's the outreach and what’s the reach?
RONALD BRUDER: We start in the capitals because we need to build credibility, we need to build a base, we need to show results. But then, as things go on, we move further and further out. So we're in Sana'a, we now have an office in Taizz, we're going to have another office in Aden.
In Morocco, we started in Casablanca and Raba and we're now spreading all over. We got a $3.1 million grant from the MasterCard Foundation, and that's enabling us to just go forward and make it happen in the region.
In Jordan, we're involved in enabling community-based organizations to take up and do the work. So I've seen people come into our office in Amman from all over Jordan now.
DAVID SPEEDIE: Actually—maybe I should have asked this as the beginning — just remind me how many countries are you in at this point in time?
RONALD BRUDER: We're in Egypt, we're in Jordan, we're in Morocco, we're in Palestine, we're in Yemen, and we're soon going to be in Tunisia. So we'll be in six countries. Plus we have an office in Madrid which does some operational work as well as creates support for the other six foundations.
DAVID SPEEDIE: Clearly, sort of the mega-political picture intrudes here to some extent. I mean after the first flush of the revolutions—this has happened in other parts of the world too, the various color revolutions in Georgia and Kirghizstan, et cetera—there has been, if not setbacks, at least halting progress after that first great blaze of enthusiasm and protests for democracy and, again to use the word, the dignity of the individual and what they hope this will create.
What’s your view, just from your own vantage point, of how—I mean, obviously in Egypt, with the arrest and trial of the Mubarak family upcoming—how do you see things?
RONALD BRUDER: That's a tough one, that's a really tough one.
I see a thirst, a lust, for dignity, for a future for democracy, for all the things that we hold dear here. And it's all internally-driven; we're not imposing democracy. It's happening internally through Facebook, Twitter, et cetera. Where it ends is a tricky one.
I'm hopeful but I'm also realistic. Unless they can get jobs, unless they can have stability, unless their economies come back, it won't be good. So the work we're doing I think is key. It's part of the answer to creating stable, sustainable economies, which means you'll have stable societies.
But things in some of the countries are pretty rough right now—not as rough as they were. I remember I was on the phone with the chair of our Egyptian foundation. Here's a guy about my age, a leading industrialist in Egypt, and he was running around at night with a gun, part of the militia to protect, as every other leader was. He hadn't held a gun I don't think, in his life.
Things are better. They're more stable. They're calmer. But the economies in these countries have taken a few steps back, Egypt being the most noteworthy.
And so the question is: Can they move forward, can they build stable democracies? They should be able to, I'm hopeful they can. But on the other hand, to be candid with you, I'm not an expert. I speak to a lot of people, and everybody is kind of couching what they say. I don't hear anybody—and I listen to some really brilliant people. I have some brilliant people on my board, and they are more hands-on than I am. They really understand the region in a way that I'll never do, because I’ve only been doing this for almost a decade.
DAVID SPEEDIE: You mentioned, however, in that regard the Twitter/Facebook generation that emerged in the course of the Egypt uprising and so on. This must create a lot of chatter or discussion about what you are doing. I mean, clearly, if one or two young people share their experiences—I guess what I'm asking is has your demand increased exponentially as people become aware of the EFE program in a tough economic environment?
RONALD BRUDER: Yes, a maelstrom. The demand has grown considerably. It's kind of interesting.
When we first started, for instance in Gaza, we couldn’t get people to sign up. Nobody believed we were actually going to create jobs. And then, once we had 80-some-odd percent of our graduates going off and earning good income, once again the demand was just sky high.
There's a tremendous need for what we are doing. We need to build our infrastructure. We need, quite frankly, more funding than we have now with our growth. The size of the foundation has grown radically. But with more funding, which is moving forward nicely, we can do much more.
DAVID SPEEDIE: How big is the organization, how many employees? What's the budget? Where is the money coming from at this point?
RONALD BRUDER: The budget is somewhere, through all the affiliates, about $6-million-plus a year.
We’re employing 70-some-odd people, and that number is rapidly growing.
DAVID SPEEDIE: That does not include the local?
RONALD BRUDER: That is including the local, all the affiliates.
That's not including Tunisia, where we haven't hired anybody yet. We'll probably have a dozen people working within the next 12 months, at least.
So we're growing rapidly. It's not only a matter of growth, it's creating sustainability. So we need to know that we have a continuing source of revenue.
One of the key ones as we grow, we'll get more and more money from employers because we perform a very valuable service.
We get donations from our graduates.
One of the things that we're focusing on now is maybe to bring to the region student loans on a large scale.
One of the reasons I'm sitting here chatting with you, quite frankly, is that I had student loans. If I didn't, I couldn't have been able to go to undergrad full time. I had scholarships to grad school.
So the bottom line is we want to bring student loans, and then that can create a whole self-sustainability model by itself.
DAVID SPEEDIE: In that regard, again the question of building for scale—I mean $6 million is $6 million, but it's not a huge amount when you look at the sheer scale of the enterprises that you're taking on.
Are organizations like the EU—after all, the European Union is a neighbor of this region—are they interested?
RONALD BRUDER: They're getting more and more involved. It's happening.
DAVID SPEEDIE: Getting involved financially?
RONALD BRUDER: Starting to get more and more involved financially, yes.
We now have a fairly robust office in Madrid, originally started by Diego Hidalgo, a Spanish philanthropist who loved what we were doing and wanted to help grow it and make it less American, more global. We now have five people there.
So the model is working. One of the ways I believe we are going to have real impact—you're looking and saying, "Okay, 5,000 graduates, it is a drop in the bucket, and $6 million is not small." Well, those numbers, with proper funding, with proper growth, can grow radically.
But probably the biggest impetus that we will have—and we're starting to see the beginnings of it—we believe, I believe, that as we get to a certain scale, we'll create a tipping point, and that institutions will look at us and say, "Why is this EFE getting 85 percent success? We're a major university and, if we're realistic with ourselves, 22 percent of our graduates are actually getting into the labor market."
So it is our hope, our expectation, that as we grow, a part of what we do, a very important part, will be to work with some of the major universities.
We're starting to do that now. We're working with [University] King Hassan II, 27,000 students. If we are successful in helping them, we will change by a wide margin the percentage of their graduates that get into the labor market.
DAVID SPEEDIE: There's an interesting question I hadn't thought of, and that is the existing pedagogical institutions, the institutions of higher learning. Clearly, some sort of cooperation, collaboration, dialogue is good. But one would assume that these have been around for a while and they may have been part of the problem in terms of churning out graduates who are not employable or at least not employed. Is this a turnaround on their part? Are they listening to your approach?
RONALD BRUDER: It's a bunch of things.
As you had the Arab Spring, you're seeing changes within the institutions themselves. A lot of these institutions have been around forever. They dealt in rote learning. It was fine. They've been doing it that way for the last 200 years. They weren't open to change.
We're starting to see the beginnings. As the societies change, as the government changes, the institutions—some of them are huge; Cairo University has a quarter-of-a-million students—these universities will reevaluate what they are doing and say, "Okay, how can we be more effective? What can we do structurally to change so that a degree from Cairo University, hypothetically, can translate into a decent job?"
We are going to see that as part of all the social change going on. So the Arab Spring, I think, is a very good force for us to create receptivity from these—excuse the expression—somewhat sclerotic institutions, to enable them to come into the 21st century and teach skills that are relevant, move away from rote learning, teach critical thinking.
Quite frankly, if you are a dictatorship, you don’t want to be teaching critical thinking. If you are a democracy, you want to be teaching critical thinking. Critical thinking is so critical for the labor market. It's key.
DAVID SPEEDIE: Back to the soft skills, the quality to question, the ability to challenge. Yes, absolutely.
How long haul is this, Ron? Obviously, the universities have thousands and thousands of students, have been around a while. Do you see this as—well, how do you see it? Do you see it long term? Are you there forever? You're young. You're energetic.
RONALD BRUDER: I may be energetic, but I'm not all that young.
Bottom line is that the World Bank tells us that by the year 2020 we need 100 million new jobs just to keep pace with the growth of the labor market. So my hope, expectation, dream, is that these foundations continue to grow, flourish. It's almost like planting a tree. We plant it, we water it, but ultimately it's got to sustain itself and have some real impact within their countries and create that tipping point and that change.
I see the work we're doing going on long after I leave the planet, because I don't think we’re going to take care of the unemployment problem in the next 30, 40, 50 years.
DAVID SPEEDIE: So you don't give an ultimatum, saying, "We're here for five years and then you’re on your own"?
RONALD BRUDER: Just the opposite. We're here to stay.
And we bring tools to each of the affiliates in addition to the money and the curriculum that we bring.
We bring operational software, for instance. We have some tracking software that we've purchased that enables each affiliate to track their graduates and their students.
We have accounting software that we're now implementing across the board so that each of our affiliates is being taught a cutting-edge accounting system so that by pressing a button in real time you'll see where every dollar went. It makes the owners a lot happier knowing that we’re tracking every dollar to that degree of clarity.
DAVID SPEEDIE: It's an amazing story, Ron.
My last thought is really not a question, it's more of an observation. You know, we're sitting looking here at a portrait of Andrew Carnegie, who set up this institution. It seems to me that what you are is the Carnegie idea of the philanthro-capitalist, someone who is not involved in charity but is involved in philanthropy and philanthropic investment, in your case something that will endure.
My final word is keep on truckin'.
RONALD BRUDER: I'm an entrepreneur. It's the only thing I know how to do.
DAVID SPEEDIE: It's in this case eminently well invested.
RONALD BRUDER: Thank you.
DAVID SPEEDIE: Ron Bruder, thanks again for being our guest.
RONALD BRUDER: A pleasure, David Speedie, an honor.