The COVID-19 pandemic exposed vulnerabilities within community colleges that have long needed attention, such as a heavy reliance on in-person learning and a lack of competency-based curricula. The rapid shift to remote learning made it difficult for colleges to effectively serve students and employers.
The Google IT Support Professional Certificate program represents an important new approach to addressing these challenges.
Google originally developed its IT Support Professional Certificate as an internal training program for IT employees. Later, the company decided to offer it more widely as a training option for anyone interested in an IT career, believing that the certificate could be a vehicle for building a more diverse workforce in the growing IT sector. The certificate offers an entry point for adults to prepare for high-demand, entry-level technology careers. The coursework was built to be a short-term self-paced program of study, and it is available online through Coursera, an experienced online education provider. Students could complete the certificate on their own time, without having to forgo other daily activities or neglect personal responsibilities.
Designed for remote delivery, the certificate program is meant to prepare people who complete the coursework for entry-level positions at a variety of companies, not just Google. The course is taught by a diverse population of Google IT employees who deliver modularized content using short videos, vignettes, and other interactive materials. Employability skills, such as communication and problem-solving capabilities, are also integrated into the five courses of the certificate training.
103 respondents said that the certificate helped them find new employment; 132 reported increased earnings; and 176 reported other positive outcomes.
Instead of providing the certificate to community colleges directly, Google partnered with JFF to establish a network of colleges to deliver the program across the country and help provide the supports necessary for implementing the program. JFF’s knowledge of community college operations, its reputation, and its previous work with community colleges brought credibility to the project.
Another important factor in the success of the implementation of the program was Google’s development of a national consortium of employers willing to interview and hire people who complete the coursework and earn the certificate. In a poll of people who completed the certificate, 103 of 806 respondents said that the certificate helped them find new employment; 132 reported increased earnings; and 176 reported other positive outcomes, such as landing an internship, improving their candidacy for future positions, starting a business, and enhancing skills used in their current positions.
The Google IT Support Professional Certificate can serve as a lever for improvement and for transformative change to community college workforce programming.
Colleges often develop career-related curricula without employer input, or they may repurpose coursework based on labor market data that is potentially outdated. The Google IT Support Professional Certificate curriculum is employer-driven, emphasizing skills that an IT employer such as Google would be looking for. If employers have a positive experience using this model, it could change the way colleges develop curriculum and lead to a stronger focus on employability skills.