Google Career Certificates: The Scramble to Gain Skills

How to change careers without going back to school

Illustration by Piya Willwerth

In my current self-assigned role of “person who pays attention to new job things,” it’s been really clear that the pandemic made a lot of people realize that they didn’t want to do what they were doing anymore. The widespread pattern disruption forced us all to begin living our lives in an abruptly different way. And although those “different ways” played out in countless different configurations, one particular group has been trying to leverage the downtime to springboard into a better career.

I mean … that’s what we’re doing here on the Secret Freshman, isn’t it?

“We’re in this universal moment of pause and reflect. This has never happened in the world,” [Ambika Nigam] says. “People are asking, ‘Is this what I wanna do in life?’ It’s rare to have the question be shared on both sides.”

S. Mitra Kalita, Fortune

Of course, once you realize that what you’re doing isn’t what you want to do, you need to go about learning the skills that you’ll need to do what you do want to do. Er … in other words, you need to level up your skillz, bro. However, with perpetually rising education costs and limited time to study, people need something that is a) effective, and b) cheap. And that’s the opportunity that Google Career Certificates is hoping to take advantage of.

Google says this year alone, searches like “how to find a job with no experience” or “great jobs without a degree” spiked more than 750 percent.

Justin Bariso, Inc

Inc says that Google is “disrupting the education system” by offering 6-month-long courses for $39/month: an insane deal compared to the current cost of college — which is a yearly average of just under $22,000 including room and board. While it is not yet clear to me the quality of these courses, it’s definitely a step in a direction towards democratizing opportunity and skills by lowering the barrier for entry for everyone. I would also bet that by letting more people learn how to do these jobs — the offerings are IT Support, Data Analytics, Project Management, and UX Design, Google is hoping that salaries will eventually stop being so high. From what I understand, it’s really only in America that tech job salaries are so inflated.

I’m not sure yet how different these courses are from existing bootcamps, but two things that do distinguish the Google Career Certificates are:

  • Partnerships with 130 companies like Bank of America, Verizon, and Intel that have agreed to work with Google Career Certificates, and
  • Possible apprenticeship opportunities within Google.

I am also encouraged by the fact that Google will “offer its IT support certificate in career and technical education high schools throughout the U.S.” That’s great news for young students from disadvantaged areas for whom college wasn’t even a possibility.

We’ll see what happens with this. If there’s one thing we know about the world right now … it’s that the consequences of COVID-19 will be playing out for years to come.

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