This morning, Google is announcing the next steps in its plan to disrupt the world of education, including the launch of new certificate programs that are designed to help people bridge any skills gap and get qualifications in high-paying, high-growth job fields–with one noteworthy feature:
No college degree necessary.
The new tools could be a game-changer for a growing number of people who consider the current educational system broken, or for the millions of Americans who are currently unemployed, much due to fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic.
According to Alphabet and Google CEO Sundar Pichai, the new initiative is a big focus for the company.
“The pandemic has led to a truly horrible year,” Pichai told Inc. in an interview. “But it has also created profound shifts along the journey to digital transformation in ways no one could have imagined.”
Google is announcing the following:
- The release of three new Google Career Certificates on Coursera in Project Management, Data Analytics, and User Experience (UX) Design
- A new Associate Android Developer Certification course
- Over 100,000 need-based scholarships
- Partnerships with over 130 employers working with Google to hire graduates of its certificate program
- A new Google Search feature that makes it easier for people to find jobs for their education level, including no degree and no experience
In an exclusive interview with Inc., Google shared further details and the thinking behind the new certificate programs and the broader “Grow With Google” initiative, its plan to help accelerate economic recovery and provide millions the opportunity to find a job, or grow their career or business.
While the shift to digital was greatly accelerated by the Covid-19 pandemic, Google was in a unique position to observe a more gradual shift over the past several years. But as more and more digital jobs became available, it became obvious that there was a skills gap.
“You can’t just say the next generation will naturally have the skills they need,” said Pichai. “We saw a lot of unfilled positions when it came to jobs in tech. It was a supply mismatch. Yet, people were hungry to fill those positions. So, we asked ourselves, ‘Why is there a gap?'”
One reason, explains Pichai, is that not everyone has access to a four-year degree, due to socioeconomic reasons and other factors.
For example, when analyzing the data, Google noticed that the Google IT Support Professional Certificate program, which the company launched on Coursera in 2018 and served as a model for the new courses, enrolled a high percentage of students from non-traditional backgrounds. In addition to many not having a degree, 46% reported being in the lowest-income bracket, reporting less than $ 30,000 annual income.
So Google concluded it was important to offer programs that were available to as many people as possible…and that taught in-demand, real-world skills. The programs should offer a clear path to a high-paying job, a stable career, or even as a stepping-stone to starting a business.
Lisa Gevelber, chief marketing officer of Google Americas Region and who leads the Grow With Google initiative, summed up Google’s ambitious goal:
“How do we create economic opportunity for everyone?”
The result is a continually developing plan, with the online certificate programs at its core.
How long and how much
Each of the new certificate programs are available on the online course platform Coursera, which works with universities and organizations like Google to offer courses, certifications, and degrees in various subjects. Students will need to enroll with Coursera to take the new certificate programs.
But how much will they cost?
Gevelber explains that the total cost of the certificate is really tied to how quickly students can complete the program.
“Most students finish in six months or less, putting the cost at about $ 240 [U.S. only],” Gevelber says. “But about half the students finish in about three months, cutting that cost in half.” In addition, Google is offering 100,000 need-based scholarships in the U.S., to help those who struggle to fund the cost of the course.
But while the new programs offer a fast track to new skills and possibly even a new job in a fraction of the time of a degree program, students shouldn’t expect the courses to be a walk in the park.
“Gaining a certificate is based on passing the assessments,” says Gevelber. “That proves someone can do the job.”
And passing those assessments aren’t easy. Gevelber describes them as “rigorous,” with over 100 assessments for each course.
“It’s not uncommon for a student to stumble even on their first assessment,” Gevelber explains. “But we’ve worked with our course designers and a behavioral science team, along with Coursera, to make sure students know they’re not alone, and help keep them from getting discouraged.”
How Google chose the courses
In the three years since the Google IT Support Professional Certificate program launched, it’s become the number one certificate on Coursera. 82% of graduates claim the program helped them advance their job search or career within six months, including getting a raise, finding a new job, or starting a new business.
So when Google began developing the next set of programs, they held to a strict criteria. Each program had to:
- Provide a path to a high demand job, with high entry level wages
- Be in a field in which Google had expertise
- Be able to be taught in an online format
The new courses seems to tick all of those boxes. According to Google, the median annual wage for the jobs connected with each course ranges from $ 75,000 (UX designer) to $ 93,000 (project manager).
But Coursera CEO Jeff Maggioncalda, who has worked closely with Google on the new initiative, identified another advantage of the new programs.
“The IT Support Professional certificate is very valuable, but it leads to a customer-facing job,” said Maggioncalda. “But what if that’s not appealing to you? You might say, well, I’m more creative, I’m more design oriented. Then, the UX course might be the right fit. Or, maybe you say I’m neither of those things, but I’m very organized. Then, you have the project management course available, or the data analyst course.”
“It’s really expanding the kinds of careers people can get into.”
Changing Google Search
When speaking with Google, I was especially curious to hear more about the additions to the search bar. After all, it’s not often you come across a change to a tool that so much of the world uses every day.
Here is where the pandemic likely played a major role. Google says this year alone, searches like “how to find a job with no experience” or “great jobs without a degree” spiked over 750%.
“Part of what motivates us is that we see people come to Google in these critical moments,” said Pichai. “And we asked ourselves: How can we be more helpful? How can we make that experience better?”
The answer was to add a feature to Google Search that makes it easier for people to find jobs for their education and experience level.
Now, when people search for topics like “no degree jobs,” they’ll see a job carousel highlighting relevant opportunities. They’ll also be able to filter jobs based on education and experience requirements, including the phrase “no degree.”
Google is also working with job sites like Glassdoor and LinkedIn, along with U.S. employers, to make these requirements clearer on job postings.
You can imagine how this could help those millions of Americans in need.
People like Rey Justo, who before Covid-19, was making more money than he ever had as the team lead for a fireplace installation company. But once the pandemic hit, orders plummeted.
“No one wants someone entering their house that is going from one home to another,” Justo told me. In a short time, Justo, his wife, and his four children were sharing one room in the home of his grandparents.
Justo ended up enrolling in the Google IT Career Certificate, which led to a job at Zennify, a computer software company in Sacramento. Now Justo and his family are closing on a deal to buy a house.
Interestingly, though, Justo almost missed his opportunity. He first learned about Google’s certificate program through an email from the City of Sacramento that had an interesting subject line: Digital Upskill Program.
“I almost didn’t even see the email,” Justo said.
With the new search function, Google is hoping to make it easier for people in situations like Justo’s to find the opportunities they’re searching for.
Disrupting the career path
One of the complaints about traditional higher education is that while universities teach critical thinking skills, they often leave graduates unprepared for the working world. To help combat that problem, Google partnered with other employers to vet the respective curriculums and to make sure they provided job-ready skills.
“We received feedback and input from employers like Accenture and Deloitte, including real-world exercises to reference when building our curriculum,” Gevelber told me. As an example, for the Data Analytics Certificate, Google referenced case study templates Deloitte uses with their own data analysts, as an exemplar for a capstone project.
Additionally, Google established the Google Career Certificates Hiring Consortium, a group of over 130 employers working together with Google which now includes companies like Bayer, Deloitte, Verizon, SAP, Accenture, Intel, and Bank of America.
Many of these employers have made commitments to hire a specific number of graduates from Google certificate programs over the next few years. Google has also partnered with Guild Education, a learning technology company who helps develop education programs for companies like the Walt Disney Company, Walmart, and Lowe’s, who in turn will be able to offer the Google Career Certificates as a tool to upskill their workforce.
Pichai says a key to success will be a holistic approach.
“They’ve focused on looking for mission-driven companies with a genuine, clear commitment to diversity and a commitment to hiring certificate graduates who don’t necessarily have a four-year degree.”
“We wanted to create a real pipeline for non-traditional talent and work together with companies to remove the traditional barriers,” added Gevelber.
“I think the combination of these two things can be very powerful.”