There’s a reason you’re seeing so many upskilling initiatives right now

More tech companies are pouring money into upskilling workers and providing holistic support.

Man at laptop

There's a very real and realized need to help underserved communities connect to better-paying jobs.

Photo: Emmanuel Ikwuegbu/Unsplash

In February, Google launched a $100 million Google Career Certificates Fund with the stated goal of increasing wages of American workers. About a week later, Springboard, a digital bootcamp, said it was committing $10 million in scholarship funds to students from underserved backgrounds. And in March, Grads of Life and OneTen publicized their new, expanded partnership aimed at placing Black workers without four-year degrees into better-paying jobs. And to cap it all off, Microsoft Philanthropies released its plans to expand its cybersecurity skilling initiative to 23 additional countries.

If it feels like a lot to keep track of, that’s because it is. But the various initiatives all have one thing in common: a very real and realized need to help underserved communities connect to better-paying jobs, thereby narrowing the tech talent gap. And, perhaps more importantly, they show companies are willing to foot the bill and enact a multipronged approach.

Some tech companies are partnering with bootcamps, while others are supporting certificate programs.

“There is room for everyone,” said Springboard co-founder and CEO Gautam Tambay. “And the reason there’s room for everyone is because there are a billion people over the next decade who are going to be out of jobs because of automation. And those billion people will not all learn the same way, and will not all have the same needs. So there’s room for all of us.”

Springboard’s Inclusion Scholarship Program commits $10 million in scholarship funds through the year 2030 to provide full, partial and half scholarships for its bootcamp programs. The scholarships are specifically earmarked for underrepresented students, including women, minorities, veterans and gender nonconforming people. Partners such as Blacks in Technology and Microsoft have signed on to support scholarships for Springboard as well.

Springboard scholarship recipients, like other Springboard participants, receive mentors and career coaches in addition to course instruction. Tambay believes it will take more than one company offering up some money to get more people into training programs and, ultimately, higher-paying jobs in tech.

“What I learned is, to solve these really complex societal challenges, it's very hard or unusual for one organization or entity to do it all by themselves,” he said. “You need a few different organizations that have unique sorts of inroads into different parts of the ecosystem to come together. You need capital to come together. You need access and education to come together, you need people who have inroads into the communities … and when all of these different forces come together, that's when you really get the most impact.”

Google is also taking a holistic approach to its certificate fund. The company chose Social Finance, a nonprofit consulting firm, to manage and distribute the money in ways that go beyond subsidizing coursework. Social Finance will “identify the community-based organizations and nonprofits who can deliver the best wraparound support,” said Lisa Gevelber, founder of Grow with Google, Google’s economic opportunity initiative.

The fund provides resources for job placement help, interview practice, child care and even living stipends, Gevelber told Protocol. She’s found that such resources are often just as important as access to training, if not more.

Josh Bersin, CEO of The Josh Bersin company, a research firm, similarly believes that online courses alone will not diversify the tech pipeline or solve the labor issue at hand. Instead, he sees the most successful initiatives as the ones that take a more full-bodied approach. Employers, he said, are realizing they have to do more.

“If I want to become a software engineer, taking a course isn't going to get me there. I'm going to need a mentor, I'm going to need somebody to help me find a job,” Bersin said. “So, you know, the education is a big part of it, but employers are really realizing they have to do more.”

The need for workers is helping spur these initiatives, Bersin added. “What's happening is on the employment side, because it's such a tight labor market, is companies are really trying to diversify their recruiting, and they're trying to look for all sorts of people to take these jobs. So it's getting better every year.”

Grow with Google has worked with another nonprofit, Year Up, to expand its reach and provide more direct support to workers in training. Year Up works to close the opportunity divide in America that keeps workers who have the skills and motivation to succeed, but who may not have a traditional four-year degree, out of the jobs they could thrive in, said Laura Thompson Love, a partner at Year Up’s consultancy arm, Grads of Life.

In its newly expanded partnership with OneTen, Grads of Life is helping a growing coalition of about 60 companies (both in and outside of tech) rethink and redesign their hiring and advancement practices to employ more people from nontraditional paths.

“The other pillar is around talent, and around building the right partnerships between training organizations who are providing that upskilling and reskilling to Black talent and member companies within OneTen [coalition] so that there are better connections between the employer and prospective employees,” Love said.

At the end of the day, the funding and training courses do little if they do not succeed at placing people into new roles.

“I think what we see is that there's just a huge opportunity to help really create the pathways that all talent and particularly Black talent need to be able to access living wages and again, career mobility within a lot of these companies,” said Love.

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