Google Has Unleashed a Plan to Disrupt the College Degree

Google's new certificate program only takes six months to complete, and will only be a fraction of the cost of college.

BY JUSTIN BARISO, AUTHOR, EQ APPLIED@JUSTINJBARISO

Google recently made a huge announcement that could change the future of work and higher education:

It's launching a selection of professional courses that teach candidates how to perform in-demand jobs.

These courses, which the company is calling "Google Career Certificates," teach foundational skills that can help jobseekers immediately find employment.

However, instead of taking years to finish like a traditional university degree, these courses are designed to be completed in about six months.

"College degrees are out of reach for many Americans, and you shouldn't need a college diploma to have economic security," writes Kent Walker, Senior Vice President of Global Affairs at Google.

"We need new, accessible job-training solutions--from enhanced vocational programs to online education--to help America recover and rebuild."

Walker then revealed the following on Twitter:

"In our own hiring, we will now treat these new career certificates as the equivalent of a four-year degree for related roles."

Google didn't say exactly how much the new courses would cost. But a similar program Google offers on online learning platform Coursera, the Google IT Support Professional Certificate, costs $49 for each month a student is enrolled. (At that price, a six-month course would cost just under $300--less than many university students spend on textbooks in one semester alone.)

Additionally, Google said it would fund 100,000 needs-based scholarships in support of the new programs.

Higher education has been ripe for disruption for a long time. And while Google's recent announcement may not be the final nail in the coffin, it's a move with major potential to change the future of education and work.

Get a certificate, find a job

One of the main criticisms of higher education through the years has been that universities don't properly equip students with the real-world skills they need in the workplace, and leave them in debt for years as they struggle to pay back student loans.

In contrast,

Google claims their courses, which would cost a fraction of a traditional university education, prepare students to immediately find work in high-paying, high-growth career fields.

The three new programs Google is offering, together with the median annual wage for each position (as quoted by Google), are:

  • Project Manager ($93,000)

  • Data Analyst ($66,000)

  • UX Designer ($75,000)

Google claims the programs "equip participants with the essential skills they need to get a job," with "no degree or prior experience required to take the courses." Each course is designed and taught by Google employees who are working in the respective field.

"The new Google Career Certificates build on our existing programs to create pathways into IT Support careers for people without college degrees," Walker explains. "Launched in 2018, the Google IT Certificate program has become the single most popular certificate on Coursera, and thousands of people have found new jobs and increased their earnings after completing the course."

After completion of a program, Google promises support in the job search as well. The company says participants can "opt in to share [their] information directly with top employers hiring for jobs in these fields," including such household names such as Walmart, Best Buy, Intel, Bank of America, Hulu, and of course, Google.

Additionally, Google says it will offer hundreds of apprenticeship opportunities to participants who have completed the course. And beginning this fall, the company will offer its IT Support Certificate in Career and Technical Education high schools throughout the U.S.

Lessons for business owners

Although traditional degrees are still deemed necessary in fields like law or medicine, more and more employers have signaled they no longer view them as a must-have--Apple, IBM, and Google, just to name a few.

So, if you're an employer or hiring manager, ask yourself:

  • Is it time to rewrite our own job descriptions, to eliminate the requirement of a four-year degree?

  • Can we take advantage of educational programs like those offered by Google and other online platforms?

  • Or, better yet, do we have the resources to design our own online training, to help increase our pool of qualified candidates and simultaneously provide an additional source of revenue for our business?

Remember: Nowadays, it's all about skills. Not degrees.

Because if there's anything this pandemic has taught us, it's the importance of maximizing ROI on both time and money.

And that's an area where universities have been failing for a very long time.

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