Forget college and debt, Google wants to get you skilled in six months

Google Career Certificates will take half a year to complete and prepare people for jobs in high-growth, lucrative sectors without leaving them deeply in debt.

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Google is looking to upend the U.S. college education system with six-month "Google Career Certificates" that will train people for in-demand jobs without taking years to complete or saddling them with mountains of debt. The move could also provide a pipeline for the search and advertising giant to acquire new talent, and could help the United States recover from the massive increase in unemployment caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

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

Walker adds that as part of revisions to its hiring process, Google "will now treat these new career certificates as the equivalent of a four-year degree for related roles." Although this is only one company enacting this change, Google could set a powerful precedent in a country where student debt currently stands at a suffocating $1.56 trillion.

How it works — According to Walker, Google will help finance 100,000 scholarships for students in need. The certificate program will involve skills in the fields of data analytics, project management, and user experience design, among others. The median annual wages for titles like a project manager is $93,000. It's $66,000 for a data analyst and about $75,000 for a user experience designer.

In addition, the program will offer certificates in information technology, starting in fall this year. These certificates will take place through partnerships with over 100 community colleges in the United States.

How much will it cost? — It's not clear how much these courses would cost, but we'd be surprised if the cost was more than a couple of hundred dollars at most. As Inc. reports, Google's existing online courses through the likes of Coursera cost around $50 a month. Compared to any college, that's a good deal. Heck, compared to the usual cost of course materials — which some cash-strapped students have literally paid for with their blood — it's a steal.

Conventional education in the United States needs a dramatic and immediate makeover. The traditional four-year method has drowned millions of students in debt with zero guarantees that they'll even get a job. Countless work multiple shifts, living paycheck to paycheck, with no economic security in sight. Moreover, the artificial hierarchy of the college system perpetuates the notion that if you didn't go to an Ivy League school you're doomed to minimum-wage work forever.

"Disruption" is a hackneyed word thanks to the tech sector frequently forcing change where it isn't needed. But if Google can disrupt America's broken education system it could genuinely change lives for generations to come.