Google Digital Skills Initiative – Closing Today’s Education Gap

I just had a conversation with a frustrated parent trying to compute the ROI on his daughter’s first college choice for a “soft science” degree. He just couldn’t make economic sense out of upwards of $80,000 a year at USC (for tuition, books, lodging, and sorority) – with no tuition support, vs. less than half that for “a good UC school.” In the finish, he voted with his wallet, and she’s going to UCSB. Increasingly, parents – and even some students – are realizing four years spent studying “what they love,” is preparing them for a job as a Starbucks barista. And it’s tough to pay off multi-hundred-thousand-dollar student loans when reported last year that baristas at Starbucks typically earn an average of $9.43 an hour. But, Google will soon be investing $1 Billion over the next five years to help students – of all ages – through the national Google Digital Skills Initiative.
Google CEO Sundar Pichai, on his “Grow with Google Tour,”  is criss-crossing the country, according to USA Today, announcing that his company will be working with libraries and community organizations to provide career advice and training. So far, the largest beneficiary of Google’s largesse has been Goodwill, which will create the Goodwill Digital Career Accelerator with its $10 million grant. And, with it, Goodwill plans to provide a million people with access to digital skills and career opportunities – coached by 1,000 Google employee volunteers, who plan to donate a million hours assisting organizations like Goodwill. All this to try to close the gap between the demand of the 21st Century workplace and the education and skills today’s typical rust belt American worker, or “soft skills” graduate, can bring to the workplace.
Google is offering three programs: “Grow with Google” offers free online programs to help job seekers, teachers and students, business owners and startups, and would-be developers learn the basics of working with tech. And while it doesn’t offer a diploma, training and certificates are available. Already 27,000 middle and high school students have taken advantage of the program, and Google’s planning to expand it to community colleges and vocational programs, too. Then, in January, Google will launch an IT certificate program developed with online education provider Coursera, which will include hands-on labs to prepare people for jobs in eight to 12 months and then connect graduates with potential employers. To help foot the bill, Google will sponsor 2,600 full scholarships through the nonprofit organizations it is funding. Last, by working with Udacity (which offers “Nanodegrees” – and their Nanodegree Plus program even features job guarantees), Google’s creating the Google Developer Scholarship Challenge, so that the top 10% of applicants who enroll in Google developer courses will receive scholarships; plus the search giant is giving away 20,000 vouchers to get G Suite certification.
Compared to about $20K a year for a barista, according to, the average salary of a “web applications developer – “l” in LA is $65,717 (and a “II” garners $91,032). Sure beats making Venti Caramel Waffle Cone Creme Soy Frappuccino, whiplesses all day.