Google’s Jesse Haines is one of the speakers at VentureBeat’s inaugural Blueprint conference, taking place on March 5-7 in Reno, Nevada. At Blueprint, speakers including Haines will discuss how tech companies can create higher paying jobs across the U.S. and expand economic opportunity for all.
In October 2017, Google launched a new initiative called Grow with Google, which aims to help Americans get the skills they need to get a job or grow their business. Specifically, the program targets students and teachers, small business owners, job seekers, startups, and developers through a number of initiatives. Grow with Google is also touring the U.S. to offer in-person digital skills training in a number of cities, having already visited Pittsburgh, Indianapolis, and Oklahoma City.
Haines is the director of Grow with Google, having previously served as the director of Google’s accessories division. This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
VentureBeat: What inspired the company to launch Grow with Google?
Haines: At Google we believe that technology can help people learn, grow, and succeed. But as the pace of technological change in the United States accelerates, we want to make sure the opportunities created are available to everyone, not just a few. That’s why in October we launched Grow with Google, to help people across the United States be better prepared to succeed in the changing economy. Through free tools, training, and events, we want to help Americans grow their skills, careers, and businesses.
VB: Can you talk about a few of the skills that Google sees as most critical to succeeding in today’s digital economy?
Haines: I started my career as a high school teacher, when technology was starting to play an important role both as a teaching tool and as part of the curriculum. Today, it’s undeniable that graduating seniors need a strong foundation of digital literacy and skills, but unfortunately they aren’t getting it. According to the Economist Intelligence Unit, less than half of 18- to 25-year-olds believe their education gives them the skills they need to enter today’s workforce. So we’ve developed a curriculum called Applied Digital Skills, which teaches fundamental digital skills through practical problem-solving tasks like creating a budget or planning an event.
Another area of focus has been the dynamic and fast-growing field of IT support. There are 150,000 open jobs in IT support today and companies are having a hard time finding great talent to fill them. We learned through our own efforts to build our IT talent pipeline at Google that IT is a teachable field that doesn’t require a 4-year degree. So last month we launched the IT Support Professional Certificate on Coursera, which can help beginners become ready for entry-level jobs in IT support in eight to 12 months, with no experience necessary. We’re pleased to report that 10,000 people have already enrolled.
And of course, we’ve long been committed to helping small businesses get the skills they need to grow.
Research shows that the small businesses that are online and using digital tools are more successful. But about 50 percent of small businesses in the U.S. still don’t have a website. Grow with Google offers several tools and trainings designed to help small businesses be found on the web and thrive.
VB: The three cities that Grow with Google has visited thus far are Pittsburgh, Indianapolis, and Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. What types of criteria are you looking at when you’re determining which cities to visit?
Haines: Our goal is to reach communities with enthusiasm for expanding their position in the digital economy and where we feel our programming can have a lasting impact. Communities big and small that are not traditionally recognized as tech hubs, but do have growing tech sectors and emerging communities of entrepreneurs. Our next two cities — Lansing, Michigan, and Louisville, Kentucky — perfectly embody these characteristics. And stay tuned for more.
VB: What are Grow with Google’s priorities in the coming year?
Haines: Our top priority is to to make sure technology brings opportunity to everyone. People like Nisha Blackwell, a woman I met in Pittsburgh, who lost her job, but then used YouTube to learn how to sew and open her own bow-tie business. People like Edgar Barragan, an IT support manager, who turned his hobby of building computers into a full-time role in IT support after graduating from our initial training program. People like Kandi Young, a teacher in Charleston, who is helping her students learn digital basics.
Through Grow with Google we want to to help more Nishas, Edgars, and Kandis achieve their goals. This year we’ll scale our programs so that more job seekers can grow their skills and advance their careers, so that more teachers can put the latest tech to work in their classrooms, and so that more small business owners can build their online presence and find new customers. We’ll also continue to bring our hands-on training into communities across the country. But we can’t do it alone. Partnerships will be critical to our success this year, and we value our relationships with nonprofits, schools, libraries, and community organizations who are helping us in this effort.