Workplace

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.

Every day, millions of us press the “order” button on our favorite coffee store's mobile application: Our chosen brew will be on the counter when we arrive. It’s a personalized, seamless experience that we have all come to expect. What we don’t know is what’s happening behind the scenes. The mobile application is sourcing data from a database that stores information about each customer and what their favorite coffee drinks are. It is also leveraging event-streaming data in real time to ensure the ingredients for your personal coffee are in supply at your local store.

Applications like this power our daily lives, and if they can’t access massive amounts of data stored in a database as well as stream data “in motion” instantaneously, you — and millions of customers — won’t have these in-the-moment experiences.

Keep Reading Show less
Jennifer Goforth Gregory
Jennifer Goforth Gregory has worked in the B2B technology industry for over 20 years. As a freelance writer she writes for top technology brands, including IBM, HPE, Adobe, AT&T, Verizon, Epson, Oracle, Intel and Square. She specializes in a wide range of technology, such as AI, IoT, cloud, cybersecurity, and CX. Jennifer also wrote a bestselling book The Freelance Content Marketing Writer to help other writers launch a high earning freelance business.
Policy

How the internet got privatized and how the government could fix it

Author Ben Tarnoff discusses municipal broadband, Web3 and why closing the “digital divide” isn’t enough.

The Biden administration’s Internet for All initiative, which kicked off in May, will roll out grant programs to expand and improve broadband infrastructure, teach digital skills and improve internet access for “everyone in America by the end of the decade.”

Decisions about who is eligible for these grants will be made based on the Federal Communications Commission’s broken, outdated and incorrect broadband maps — maps the FCC plans to update only after funding has been allocated. Inaccurate broadband maps are just one of many barriers to getting everyone in the country successfully online. Internet service providers that use government funds to connect rural and low-income areas have historically provided those regions with slow speeds and poor service, forcing community residents to find reliable internet outside of their homes.

Keep Reading Show less
Aditi Mukund
Aditi Mukund is Protocol’s Data Analyst. Prior to joining Protocol, she was an analyst at The Daily Beast and NPR where she wrangled data into actionable insights for editorial, audience, commerce, subscription, and product teams. She holds a B.S in Cognitive Science, Human Computer Interaction from The University of California, San Diego.
Fintech

How I decided to exit my startup’s original business

Bluevine got its start in factoring invoices for small businesses. CEO Eyal Lifshitz explains why it dropped that business in favor of “end-to-end banking.”

"[I]t was a realization that we can't be successful at both at the same time: You've got to choose."

Photo: Bluevine

Click banner image for more How I decided series

Bluevine got its start in fintech by offering a modern version of invoice factoring, the centuries-old practice where businesses sell off their accounts receivable for up-front cash. It’s raised $240 million in venture capital and about $700 million in total financing since its founding in 2013 by serving small businesses. But along the way, it realized it was better to focus on the checking accounts and lines of credit it provided customers than its original product. It now manages some $500 million in checking-account deposits.

Keep Reading Show less
Ryan Deffenbaugh
Ryan Deffenbaugh is a reporter at Protocol focused on fintech. Before joining Protocol, he reported on New York's technology industry for Crain's New York Business. He is based in New York and can be reached at rdeffenbaugh@protocol.com.
Enterprise

The Roe decision could change how advertisers use location data

Over the years, the digital ad industry has been resistant to restricting use of location data. But that may be changing.

Over the years, the digital ad industry has been resistant to restrictions on the use of location data. But that may be changing.

Illustration: Christopher T. Fong/Protocol

When the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade on Friday, the likelihood for location data to be used against people suddenly shifted from a mostly hypothetical scenario to a realistic threat. Although location data has a variety of purposes — from helping municipalities assess how people move around cities to giving reliable driving directions — it’s the voracious appetite of digital advertisers for location information that has fueled the creation and growth of a sector selling data showing who visited specific points on the map, when, what places they came from and where they went afterwards.

Over the years, the digital ad industry has been resistant to restrictions on the use of location data. But that may be changing. The overturning of Roe not only puts the wide availability of location data for advertising in the spotlight, it could serve as a turning point compelling the digital ad industry to take action to limit data associated with sensitive places before the government does.

Keep Reading Show less
Kate Kaye

Kate Kaye is an award-winning multimedia reporter digging deep and telling print, digital and audio stories. She covers AI and data for Protocol. Her reporting on AI and tech ethics issues has been published in OneZero, Fast Company, MIT Technology Review, CityLab, Ad Age and Digiday and heard on NPR. Kate is the creator of RedTailMedia.org and is the author of "Campaign '08: A Turning Point for Digital Media," a book about how the 2008 presidential campaigns used digital media and data.

Latest Stories
Bulletins