The Explosive Growth (and Disruptive Potential) of Grow with Google
In my 25-plus years working in and around IT certification I have often been asked: "Which is better for long-term career development and work opportunities: a college degree or IT certification?" My answer has always been, and still remains, "Both."
That's because a college degree speaks to a person's ability to pursue and complete a long-term program of study (2-to-4 years) while meeting general education and major/minor degree requirements. On the other hand, IT certification is much more job role- and workplace-focused.
Getting a certification speaks to a person's ability to pursue and pass a specific, targeted program of study that aims to verify and validate their competence in, and understanding of, a well-defined body of skills, knowledge, and experience.
The premise of a recent "exclusive" story that appeared at Inc.com is well-stated in its title, and tackles my traditional answer to the preceding question head on. That title is "How Google's New Career Certificates Could Disrupt the College Degree." The telling subtitle goes a bit further to explain what Google is up to here: "A new feature of Google Search designed to help job seekers everywhere."
That is to say, there's more to Google's offerings than training and a certificate. They are, as show in the diagram below, also providing career resources that include coaching sessions, mock interviews, and a r�sum� builder. Beyond that, they're tweaking Google Search to include a job search function that takes a searchers training and certification experience into account, as well as degrees and other educational accomplishments.
Source: Grow.Google "Path to Jobs"
Making the Argument for Going from Certificate to Work
Given that Google is a cloud- and data-oriented company, it should come as no surprise that the foundation of CEO Sundar Pichai's assertions about filling the IT skills gap with (Google) certificate holders comes straight from the company's own prior experience with its earliest certificate offerings.
Thus, for example, Inc.com reports that "when analyzing the data, Google noticed that the Google IT Support Professional Certificate program, which the company launched on Coursera in 2018 and served as a model for the new courses, enrolled a high percentage of students from nontraditional backgrounds.
"In addition to many not having a degree, 46 percent reported being in the lowest-income bracket, reporting less than $30,000 annual income."
What did Google conclude from these insights? Inc.com reports that the company "concluded it was important to offer programs that were available to as many people as possible ... and that taught in-demand, real-world skills. The programs should offer a clear path to a high-paying job and a stable career, or even be a steppingstone to starting a business."
And again, this puts people directly to work, with no college degree in that picture.
How Does This Work?
Lisa Gevelber, VP of Grow with Google (the parent organization that provides certificates, career resources, and placement mechanisms for certificate holders) says that Google was driven to create this program to answer the question "How do we create economic opportunity for everyone?"
This has produced the current certificate program, which continues to evolve and develop, around its online certificate offerings through MOOC platform company Coursera. Certificate candidates must enroll with that company to participate in the program.
Gevelber is quick to point out that even though Google certificates, in the words of the Inc.com story, "offer a fast track to new skills and possibly even a new job in a fraction of the time of a degree program, students shouldn't expect the courses to be a walk in the park." She is quoted as saying further that "Gaining a certificate is based on passing the assessments" and "That proves someone can do the job."
She describes such assessments as "rigorous," with each certificate course involve over 100 assessments along the way to completion. She goes on to observe that, "It's not uncommon for a student to stumble even on their first assessment. But we've worked with our course designers and a behavioral science team, along with Coursera, to make sure students know they're not alone, and help keep them from getting discouraged."
Constructing a Certificate-to-Work Curriculum
The tip of the spear is the success of the Google IT Support Professional Certificate since its launch in 2018. That course, Google reports, has become "the number one certificate on Coursera." It also reports that 82 percent of graduates claim the program helped them find a job or boost their careers within six months of completion "including getting a raise, finding a new job, or starting a new business."
Based on this history, Google established strict criteria for developing new programs. In the words of the Inc.com story, each new offering had to:
? Provide a path to a high-demand job, with high entry-level wages
? Be in a field in which Google had expertise
? Be able to be taught in an online format
Google's latest certificates including UX Designer, Data Analytics, and Project Management. Since their debut in 2020, Google reports median annual wages for persons holding those certificates ranging from $75,000 for UX Designers to $93,000 for project managers (with Data Analytics people presumably somewhere in between).
They've just launched an Android Development certificate (March 11), so it's too early to project what kind of pay that certificate will attract.
Putting Certificate Holders to Work
Once a person completes a Google Certificate, they gain access to the company's career resources online. These include online coaching sessions, sign-ups for mock interviews to let them practice interviewing skills, and a r�sum� builder tool to help them with routine paperwork.
Certificate holders are also linked into the company's "employer consortium," a group of more than 130 companies, to be matched with open positions. Those companies include Accenture, Bayer, Best Buy, Better.com, Deloitte, Infosys, Intel, Target, T-Mobile, Verizon, Walmart, and, of course, Google itself (visit the Grow with Google Employers page for a complete list).
Cost information is available in the Certificates FAQ; most commonly it involves a $39 monthly subscription fee paid to Coursera while training is underway. (Android Developer involves an exam fee of $149, but is paid by Google Employers.)
Can Google Certificates Really Disrupt College Degrees?
For the kinds of demographics that participated in the Google IT Support Professional program � nontraditional backgrounds (no degree, lowest-income bracket) � absolutely. But for most middle-class kids and their families, I'm skeptical they're going to tune out of higher education and tune into the Google Certificate Program instead.
It's a great option for everybody and anybody interested in IT work, including "traditional higher-ed customers." It is by no means, however, an outright replacement for college. After all, not everybody can work in IT, right?
We still need school teachers, medical professionals, engineers, scientists, and all the other professionals who also have a continuing part to play in the workforce, even in a digitally transformed, highly interconnected, and cloud-based world.