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Google’s New Career Certificate Program Will Further Rattle Colleges and Universities

3 min read
Aug 20, 2020

As if COVID-19 hadn’t already disrupted higher education enough, Google’s most recent announcement throws more fuel on the fire. The tech giant will expand its Career Certificate Program to include at least three more types of jobs. Those jobs are data analyst, project manager, and UX designer. They already offer a Career Certificate for IT support specialist.

Notably, no degree is required to take part in the program. On top of that, Google will treat these certificates as equivalent to a four-year degree in its own hiring for related jobs. The cost, always an issue when a four-year degree leaves many with a great deal of debt, is minimal. The individual certificates are expected to cost around $300 and take six months to complete.

Perhaps most striking because it gets to the heart of one of the biggest criticism of higher education, Google will offer a great deal of help in finding a job for those that complete the program. They will be expanding their IT Certificate Employer Consortium that allows those that complete a certificate to share their information with leading businesses who are hiring in those fields. Graduates will also be able to access resources that will help with the job search and to prepare for interviews. Even further, Google will offer apprenticeship programs for those that obtain their certificate, and, in the fall of this year, the IT support certificate will be available in many high schools in the U.S.

Finally, grants and scholarships will be made available by Google. They will provide 100,000 need-based scholarships to complete the certificate training and are committing $10 million to nonprofits and workforce boards to help fund job training programs. 

"College degrees are out of reach for many Americans, and you shouldn't need a college diploma to have economic security," Kent Walker, senior vice president of global affairs at Google, wrote in a blog. "We need new, accessible job-training solutions--from enhanced vocational programs to online education--to help America recover and rebuild."

This news will not be well received by many colleges and universities who have seen their revenue fall off a cliff during the ongoing pandemic. Many schools that have trying to open back up have been forced to switch to remote learning. Sports and events being canceled, combined with dorms closing, have also weakened the lure to attract students. It’s projected that schools could lose 20% of their students for this academic year.

There have also been detractors in the tech industry. The chief scientist for software engineering at IBM, Grady Booch, who is considered a legend in his field, tweeted his criticism.

“So @google, in so doing you will produce a generation of disposable developers who will have no understanding of the ethics of computing, the history of computing, the theoretic underpinnings of computing, or the ability to learn how to learn, Booch tweeted.

It’s probably a combination of these views that will win the day. It’s not entirely necessary for someone to have a four-year degree to be a developer while, at the same time, a course that takes just six months to complete is not equal to a four-year degree at a university. Those two thoughts can coexist and both can still be true