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Google’s plan for expanding opportunity and access in the future of work

Melonie Parker
Melonie Parker
Melonie Parker is Chief Diversity Officer at Google.

Recent research shows that cultivating and investing in talent pools that more accurately mirror the full breadth of our society can be a boon for business and spur economic growth. As new technologies change the way we work across industries, employers have a golden opportunity to cultivate a highly skilled workforce that truly reflects our country’s diversity—and builds stronger businesses in the process.

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According to the World Economic Forum’s 2023 Future of Jobs Report, jobs and the skills needed to acquire them will evolve dramatically over the next five years. But as we work to keep pace with this change, we need to ensure equity and inclusion remain top of mind.

To help build a more inclusive and sustainable pipeline for talent, companies can take two important steps: focus on skills—not just degrees—in the hiring process, and offer students real-world, project-based work experiences through internships even before they fully enter the workforce.

I recently participated in a panel discussion during the World Economic Forum’s Growth Summit where we at Google addressed this changing environment. Our conversation centered around two critical and related challenges: preparing all people for a new job landscape that requires a range of digital skills, while simultaneously seizing this moment to close the opportunity gap for diverse communities whose skills training needs have historically not been met by employers or educational institutions.

Meeting these challenges requires employers to double down on efforts to remove barriers that prevent some groups from landing high-growth jobs of the future.

In today’s job market, specific skills like those learned through professional certificate programs, rather than broad, wide-ranging degrees, are proving to be increasingly valuable to both employers and employees. In a positive sign, many companies have recently shown a willingness to move away from degree requirements—now requiring a “degree or equivalent”—but there is no agreement among employers on what the term “equivalent” actually means, and job seekers who lack post-secondary education are often deterred from applying as a result.

See also: Incorporate the diverse skills of an aging workforce

Google Career Certificates designed to help

We launched Google Career Certificates to help train all people for the new jobs landscape. By hiring program graduates, we and many other employers are setting a clearer standard for job seekers and employers alike on the skills and experience needed to land one of these high-growth jobs. Our program offers professional certificates in fields including cybersecurity, data analytics and IT support, equipping people with skills needed for in-demand jobs.

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The certificates are built and taught by experts at Google, with input from national employers, and do not require a degree or experience. To date, more than half a million people have completed the program globally and more than 70% of U.S. graduates have landed a new job, promotion or raise within six months of completion.

Companies like American Express, T-Mobile, Walmart and Google are in the Career Certificate’s employer consortium and use the program to source talent, proving that employers want to hire people with these skills. These trends paint a vivid picture of the equitable economy we can create if we connect people with the skills we know employers want—regardless of their background or educational experience.

In fact, 55% of our U.S. graduates identify as Asian, Black or Latino and 38% of our graduates come from low-income backgrounds and were previously earning under $30,000 a year before upskilling into fields with median incomes of $76,000.

Emphasizing skills training for job seekers is an important step toward our goal, but we must also reach people years before they enter the workforce. The technology of today moves at a rapid pace, proving the importance for young people to gain real-world exposure to potential tech jobs before committing to an expensive four-year degree in a field they may ultimately not enjoy once they begin work.

By offering students project-based, immersive work experiences—a new kind of internship, so to speak—employers can help foster a much stronger pipeline of talent for the future.

At Google, we’ve created Tech Exchange, a semester-long academic program for students in computing-related fields attending Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSIs) in the U.S. This pipeline program provides opportunities to hone applied computer science and critical thinking skills, while building connections and community with students at partner schools and institutions.

Not every employer has the resources to launch a robust program, but they can still reimagine the internships they offer to focus on project-based experiences that stand out on a résumé and to provide meaningful and substantive experiences that help build real-world skills. And they can proactively engage with diverse communities to ensure these opportunities are available to people who may not otherwise have access.

To scale and sustain an inclusive economy for today and tomorrow, companies need to build opportunities for all people to develop the skills and experiences they need to chart their own career course in the future of work. Expanding the way we see and approach the workforce is essential to staying competitive, and doing so equitably is not only the smart thing to do for business; it’s the right thing to do in our increasingly diverse global society.