Google has taken its internal IT training curriculum and, in partnership with Coursera, taken it public in the form of a certificate program. The tech giant is also providing full funding to 10,000 students, despite the fact that the majority of them will never become Googlers. Still, this initiative will allow Google to build a pipeline of talent in a critical field—they’ll have an inside track to hiring top performers from the program—while also enabling diversity across the entire sector by upskilling candidates from non-traditional backgrounds. It burnishes the company’s public image as well: The program is available to anyone, the cost is highly subsidized, and Google will have a hand in closing the digital talent gap.
The cost of the program is $49 per month, and scholarships will be funded by Google.org grants and distributed in part through community groups such as Year Up, Goodwill, Student Veterans of America, and Upwardly Global, per Google’s press release. The goal is for students to be ready for entry-level IT support jobs within 8 to 12 months after they complete the training, which consists of 64 hours of video lessons as well as interactive labs and assignments.
Trainees will learn to handle tasks such as troubleshooting and customer service, operating systems, and system administration, automation, and security. Once students complete the program, they will also have the option to share their information with an impressive list of corporate employers such as Bank of America, Walmart, PNC Bank, and more, in addition to Google.
While Google is the trendsetter here, Coursera is working on similar programs with other companies, Quartz’s Michael J. Coren notes:
Paying to train employees who may never work at your company is becoming a new recruiting tool, says a spokesperson from Coursera … Google is the first to offer scholarships through Coursera’s platform, but more companies will offer similar arrangements this year. Many face a Catch 22 when hiring for technology jobs. Firms want people with demonstrated skills, but it’s hard for potential candidates to develop that expertise except on the job. …
Coursera says the standard cost for the certificate program would be about $400 to $600 per person, but companies investing in the broader workforce may still work out to be a good deal. Google, which is famous for running experiments on how to optimize its workforce, will likely use this program to test how well the strategy delivers in terms of new hires and publicity.
There has been a lot of discussion about the responsibility tech companies have in bridging the skills gap in today’s labor force, especially as these companies are seen as contributing to the displacement of traditional low-tech jobs through automation and digitalization. To that end, Google announced a major philanthropic initiative last year to help train US workers for the jobs of the future. This online course offering is a concrete solution to the tech talent gap that will likely pay dividends for Google in building a stronger talent pipeline, enabling diversity, and augmenting Google’s employer brand in a time when candidates are increasingly interested in a potential employer’s dedication to corporate social responsibility.