Late last month, I elbowed my way in to a free ‘Grow with Google’ (GwG) expo in Louisville, Kentucky. Along with 700 other attendees, I spent the day taking part in free workshops, watching demos and experiencing one-on-one coaching. What was it all about?
In short, the skills gap.
GwG’s mission is to use Google tools and resources to create job skills and opportunities for Americans, especially those left behind by technological advances. Google launched the initiative six months ago and in that time has taken its tech expo to three metropolitan areas and more are planned.
Digital Tech Skills Under The Spotlight
Part traveling ‘tech road show’ and part training forum, GwG aims to heighten the digital skills of educators, students, entrepreneurs, local businesses and job seekers. The tech giant is supporting that agenda with multimillion-dollar investments and up to one million hours of employee volunteer time over five years.
I saw lots of learning going on in Louisville that day, not enough to turn newbies into job-ready tech staff, but enough to give people confidence and whet their appetites for more serious training. And GwG is making that training available to all.
For educators its video-based ‘Applied Digital Curriculum’ aims to equip students with basic but practical tech skills. These include how to make a digital presentation, conduct online research, work with spreadsheets, animations and more. Some 20,000 educators around the country are now using those 18 video lessons to perform more than 82 activities total.
Jesse Haines, Director, Grow with Google showed me how Local businesses can dip into the platform to improve their business and marketing skills with ‘five-minute lessons,’ boost their profile on ‘Google My Business’ or have their site tested to hear personalized recommendations.
Would-be developers can hook into GwG to start learning how to code or to improve their skills. You can even apply for a developer training scholarship opportunity.
Developing The Skills Employers Need
For job seekers, the most powerful of GwG’s training concepts, in my view, is its IT Support Professional Certificate. This is a terrific program for anyone who hasn’t been able to latch onto the digital juggernaut, who is noosed to a poorly paid job with no prospects for advancement, or who can’t afford the time or cost of higher education.
Among its course offerings, GwG has a six-part online course, which is based on Google’s own internal training materials. It uses video lectures, quizzes, and hands-on labs to introduce people with no digital skills to troubleshooting and customer service, networking, operating systems, system administration, automation, and security.
Complete the course successfully and you’ll get a recognized certificate. Come again? That’s right. The certificate-holder is fully prepared for an entry-level IT support job anywhere in the country. You’re encouraged to apply to Google, Walmart, Bank of America, Spring, GE Digital and other companies affiliated with the program.
Not bad for a part-time course that takes eight months to a year to complete if you go at it for eight to 10 hours each week. It is meaty. That is a bargain considering that IT support workers enjoy a median salary of $52,000 and have many opportunities to expand their skills and earnings.
Louisville was chosen for the recent expo because, like other cities, its businesses, medical centers, and other entities are rapidly adopting digital technology, creating new programming jobs at a fast. Adding to the demand for technology jobs in the state is the expansion of manufacturing, engineering, logistics, and aerospace sectors. It’s all about the skills gap.
Customer Support Vacancies Abound
Sure, America has embraced digital devices, networks, systems, home assistants, WiFi routers and cloud storage en masse for home or business use and they’re even wired into our automobiles, so to speak. But how many of us know how to set up these devices or fix them when they’re ‘down’? Not enough, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Although 850,000 people in the U.S. are now employed in computer customer support, 150,000 positions are now empty for lack of qualified or willing applicants. And demand for support techies is forecasted to grow steadily in the years ahead.
Making Good Business Sense
Beyond the training of user support personnel, greater digital know-how would help the rest of us, particularly students and small businesses—to make the most of the technology we already have. Students are masters at gaming, texting and social media, but greater experience with productivity and presentation software would benefit their academic work and make them more employable. Small businesses also have a long way to go in reaping the potential benefits of computer applications – in marketing, operational management, and other functions.
So, hats off to Google for making this skill-building opportunity available to so many. It’s so needed. If the tech roadshow has piqued your interest, keep your eyes on this site for updates about where they’re visiting next.
Author disclosure: I have no financial or other affiliation with Google. I paid my own travel and expenses. I did partake with other participants in a free doughnut and coffee from a local Louisville vendor.