A few weeks ago, Google announced the introduction of 3 new online certificate programs as part of their Grow with Google initiative. These certifications, called the Google Career Certificates, will be delivered through the popular online learning platform Coursera, which was founded in 2012 by 2 Stanford professors.
While the Google certification program is already turning heads, Google has announced Google Scholarship that will make these courses even more adorable and valuable especially or those who still find these comparatively affordable courses heavy on their pockets.
Under the Google certification program, candidates will be taught by Google employees working in departments where each course’s content is most relevantly applicable. The purpose of these training, as with Grow with Google’s overarching vision, is to provide affordable but high-quality skill-based training to individuals who cannot afford a traditional college degree, are unemployed, or for whom college is not the most practical choice.
These certifications can be completed within three to six months, after which all those who succeed in clearing the course requirements will become eligible for jobs within the field they received training in. Google claims that these programs are expected to provide skill-building equivalent to that of traditional 4-year long college degree programs. Within Google, applicants with these certificates will be treated and given just as much preference as college graduates.
Furthermore, Google has partnered with 50 other companies with whom certificate holders will be connected post-completion for job interviews and the like. Given Google’s influential status, their partnering companies are also big industry names such as Intel, Infosys, Bank of America, Hulu, Best Buy, and Walmart, among others.
Google will also give all their students access to additional career resourced to aid their post-certification job-hunting.
High-Demand Skills Offered for a Nominal Fee
Although the course structures and syllabi still haven’t been disclosed, the courses will provide training for the following high-demand and high-paying job fields:
Data Analysis – Data analysts are proficient in collecting, analyzing, and synthesizing all company data in a way that the data points can be used to make informed business decisions. This is a job-posting required by almost every business or IT firm nowadays. The course will seek to help “learners develop confidence navigating the data lifecycle using tools and platforms to process, analyze, visualize, and gain insights from data.”
Project Management – Project managers supervise projects undertaken by companies and ensure that the desired goals are achieved as efficiently and profitably as possible. Google’s project management certificate program will train learners in traditional and agile project management.
User Experience Designing – Also known as UX designing for short, these professionals improve the interface of existing technologies to make them convenient, well-connected, and appealing to users. The UX Designer course will enable individuals to assess user needs and create testable prototypes to cater to these needs.
As previously mentioned, these certifications won’t be difficult to afford, as they will be offered as part of the standard Coursera subscription plan which costs $49 per month. Thus, if it takes a user 6 months to complete one certification program, it’ll cost them less than $300. However, if even this is out of the user’s budget, Google has other means to cover these costs which will be discussed shortly.
At the moment, Google is already offering one Google Certificate Program on Coursera for the role of IT Support Specialist. For those interested in getting a general feel of Google’s course delivery format, courses can be enrolled in for free on Coursera, with the option to purchase certification on completion.
100,000 “Google” Scholarships, Grants, and More
The contribution of Google is not just be limited to offering online certificates. The tech giant will be offering financial aid to 100,000 learners interested in taking these courses. The process of availing such aid will probably be similar to most other financial aid verification processes, with the aim to assist those in dire need of such help.
Furthermore, Google will be awarding $10 million in grants to three non-profit partners, namely, the YWCA, NPower, and JFF, who work with Google in a joint endeavor to professionally empower women, underrepresented populations (black people, Hispanic people, disabled people, and other marginalized groups/communities), and veterans.
These courses will be open to everyone, regardless of whether they are degree-holders or not, further enhancing their inclusivity.
In a blog-post introducing the programs, Kent Walker, Google SVP of Global Affairs spoke about the inaccessibility of college degrees for a lot of Americans. He further commented that one “shouldn’t need a college diploma to have economic security.” In the same post, he mentioned efforts to expand the existing 50 member employer consortium for students of their certificate programs.
There is a slight catch, however, to this knight in shining armor. From Google’s announcements, it seems that these courses specifically cater to American students and their employment needs, for the time being. Google hasn’t made it clear whether these courses will be available in locations outside the USA, but given the ubiquity of the job roles they will be providing training for, there is scope for the programs to be universally recognized and accepted.
E-Learning: Yet Another “New Normal”
Google’s courses come at a very crucial time for the American employment market, and hopefully for the rest of the world.
Many people have had to drop out of higher education due to the coronavirus pandemic. An even higher number of individuals have lost their jobs as businesses have downsized due to lack of revenue and investment. At the same time, work from home, online classes, and up-skilling have become common in today’s employment and education scenarios.
It is estimated that 400 million jobs were lost worldwide due to the pandemic in Q2 2020. Many countries are fighting unprecedented unemployment rates for the first time in decades. Due to the lack of inclusivity of online education, poor or inadequate infrastructure, and exorbitant university fees, many students, particularly in the US, have dropped out or taken a gap year. However, the story follows a similar plot regardless of region.
People of non-white ethnicities, immigrants, those with lesser education, and other marginalized groups are bearing the brunt of this economic breakdown, as many might have already expected.
Thus, at a time like this, with adult learners in need of concrete skills in which they can now invest their time, as well as college students considering more short-term and cost-effective alternatives, online courses or MOOCs (Massive Online Open Courses) have become an attractive, low-risk alternative, in all senses of the word. Studies have shown that consumer interest in these modes of education has increased significantly post COVID-19. According to Moody’s Investor Services, enrolment in non-degree online courses has seen a very rapid spike in recent months.
Being a pioneer in the online short-course domain, Coursera has a specific Workforce Recovery segment as part of their overall course portfolio. Other websites like Udemy, Harvard and MIT’s edX, Skillshare, Udacity, etc. have also made many courses free of cost due to increased enrolment. Renowned universities like Harvard, Stanford, and Johns Hopkins are also offering free certification courses to further people’s skill development.
Online Learning: More than Meets the Eye
While opinions about online education are still divided due to various fears ranging from the lack of student-teacher interaction to the technological facilities needed to access it, people have started to appreciate the benefits, as well.
Keeping the most obvious ones such as flexibility, comfort, and cost-effectiveness aside, there are wonderful sociological advantages to this somewhat unconventional mode of learning. An emerging body of research has started showing that many minority groups such as women and black people prefer online education. This preference has led to higher underrepresented group enrolment in various professional courses, such as Coursera’s iMBA program.
In the future, the credibility of online certification is expected to grow as reflected by a survey conducted by Edukatico in which employers were found to view online certification as advantageous and reflective of a conscientious, committed worker. However, contrary data also exists. Nonetheless, a clear market shift has already taken place and it can be expected that education and employment will become more equitable in times to come.
The trick with online courses, then, is to look for accredited, university-affiliated courses that are relevant to the field you plan to or already specialize in.
In the meantime, one can always hope that Google’s initiative to dispel the stigma around certificates gains momentum and increases the opportunities available for unconventional and underrepresented learners. The IT behemoth has also recently partnered with different organizations in various countries to enhance workers’ existing skill-set in order to make them better adapted to the tough requirements of the current job-market.