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Getting Started With Google Career Certificates: Key Questions and Considerations for Nonprofit Providers

August 17, 2023

At a Glance

Out of Jobs for the Future’s (JFF) collaboration with Google to scale its Career Certification to nonprofits and community colleges, insights from these organizations to effectively implement those training have emerged and are outlined in our Key Questions and Considerations table. In support of our findings, we also share a profile of Dress for Success® Worldwide, one of the organizations JFF recruited and supported to implement the Google Career Certificates.

Sara Lamback Senior Director
Madeleine Chaisson, Senior Manager
Practices & Centers

Google launched a set of career certificates in 2018 as a strategy to open up IT jobs to learners and workers that are largely underrepresented in the IT and tech-adjacent sectors, such as women of all racial backgrounds and Black, Latinx, and Indigenous people. Since the launch of the IT Support Certificate training program, Google has provided support for Jobs for the Future (JFF) to scale the Career Certificates to over 40 domestic and international nonprofits and over 100 community colleges. Today, the list of Google offerings has expanded to eight in-demand certificates, largely in response to increased interest from current and potential IT learners and workers, of all ages and backgrounds, as well as recent shifts in skills and experiences desired by employers in fast-evolving IT and tech-adjacent sectors.

JFF believes that the moment is right to capture lessons learned about key strategies and conditions that have led to a successful implementation and scale of Google Career Certificates within nonprofits and community-based organizations. These organizations are looking for alternative and short-term credentials as an opportunity to work with employers to develop customized training for regional employers and to support the development of a more inclusive and diverse technology ecosystem.

We will explore lessons learned about the conditions needed for nonprofit organizations to best implement Google Career Certificates. Many of these lessons are also applicable to other IT training programs. Our goal is to share these insights from JFF’s work recruiting and distributing Google Career Certificate licenses to nonprofit organizations, providing technical assistance and coaching to those organizations focused on effective implementation, and providing support to help them meet their goals. Ultimately the information presented below should provide guidance to the broader field of organizations that are currently implementing Google Career Certificates trainings. We include a profile of Dress for Success ® Worldwide, one of the organizations JFF recruited and supported to implement the Google Career Certificates, to highlight critical elements that enabled a successful launch of the program in their network, as well as innovative approaches to address some of the challenges Dress for Success has faced along the way.

The key questions and considerations below provides a set of considerations for organizations considering implementing the Google Career Certificates, organized by the three key phases in the programming lifecycle: Pre-Launch, Implementation, and Scale/Sustainability. In each area, JFF outlines a set of considerations and questions that implementers must take into account and carefully assess to help decide whether or not they are ready to implement Google Career Certificates.

As your organization works through these steps, consider what you can offer on your own, what additional resources you need to access, and most importantly, what opportunities exist to partner with other mission-aligned organizations to advance your mission, develop win-win partnerships, leverage resources, and maximize impact.

Field Case Study: Dress for Success® Worldwide

Dress for Success® Worldwide is the leading global nonprofit employment resource, empowering unemployed and underemployed women around the world to achieve economic independence. To date, the organization has served 1.3+ million women across 140+ affiliates in 24 countries. Dress for Success partnered with JFF to offer the suite of Google Career Certificates to their participants across 16 affiliate sites. The licenses allotted to the organization were managed internally, with 340-plus learners enrolled and 33-plus certificates completed at time of publication. As of mid-July, Dress for Success learners across the 16 sites saw highest enrollments in Project Management and Data Analytics, with the highest completions in Data Analytics.

Operationally, Dress for Success Worldwide identified a main point of contact to centralize information and communication channels to the affiliates during the implementation period. Individual sites engaged with JFF coaches throughout the project to get supports on program design and to troubleshoot implementation challenges, such as learner engagement and retention.

Many affiliates, such as Dress for Success Triangle in North Carolina, offered existing career pathways programming in IT where the Google Career Certificates fit nicely without much modification. Their program model focuses on career readiness and job placement, often engaging clients in cohorts. This means their staff maintain regular communication and touchpoints with clients, a best practice that JFF has identified when offering self-paced curricula. Some sites, like Dress for Success Greater New York City, formed informal mentorship programs by matching newer learners with learners who had progressed further in or completed a Certificate.

The global nonprofit has prioritized learning and continuous improvement in their implementation of the Google Certificates. In engaging with JFF and the broader network of partners, sites were able to learn and quickly adapt and improve their programs. Local staff also met with clients often to gather feedback about their experiences with the Certificates and to offer additional resources as necessary.

Dress for Success’s commitment to job placement and advancement is central to each conversation with their clients and in coaching conversations with JFF staff. By engaging with over 300 clients across 16 affiliate sites, the organization has been able to gather evidence to form a compelling argument as to why Google Career Certificates benefit their learners and ultimately benefit local employers. These insights will continue to inform their programming as they engage participants around the world.

JFF is appreciative of the ongoing collaboration with Google that makes this innovative work possible and looks forward to seeing other organizations like Dress for Sucess be successful in future implementations that are tailored to the needs of learners exploring and deepening their careers in IT. JFF also is thankful to the network of nonprofits who engaged in coaching sessions, attended virtual technical assistance events, and invited JFF into their spaces for collaborative learning.

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