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Building the workforce of the future: key learnings from Grow with Google

The world is rapidly digitizing, presenting huge opportunities for growth and jobs. However, many people in Europe and beyond lack the skills to take advantage of this. Inspired by the European Commission’s call for ideas to address this challenge—we committed to help, launching Grow with Google three years ago. Since then more than 4 million people in Europe and 3 million people in Africa have been through our programs, and in Europe, Grow with Google has created more than 220,000 new jobs or business opportunities. This March, we renewed our commitment to the EU Digital Skills and Jobs Coalition, with a pledge to help a further one million people in Europe find a job or grow their business by 2020.

The digital skills challenge is one that many organizations and governments are focused on, and we want to share what we’ve learned. We asked the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) to independently review Grow with Google's approach to digital skills training. They looked at six countries: France, Germany, Italy, Nigeria, Spain and Sweden. Here’s what they found:

Partnership between companies, government and civil society is vital.

Our partnerships with governments, city councils, universities, private-sector businesses and nonprofits have enabled us to gain trust with participants, learn from others' expertise, and increase the reach and relevance of our programs. In Italy, Crescere in Digitale, a partnership with the Ministry of Labour and Chamber of Commerce, has initiated more than 3,000 internships for young unemployed people at SMBs to date. About 30 percent of those who completed internships are now employed.

Programs must be tailored to meet local contexts and needs.

A “one size fits all” format is unlikely to work well. Programs need to be designed to meet national needs and often work best when there is scope for further local tailoring. Grow with Google is localized in each country, working with local partners, to maximize relevance and results. In Spain, where unemployment is the biggest issue affecting youth, we recently launched a digital skills employment program with the government. In Greece, where tourism is the top economic pillar, we’ve partnered with the government to offer free digital skills training to people working in the tourism sector.  

Providing skills for the future is as important as providing skills for immediate use.

Organizations and people need skills to help improve short-term outcomes. However, future-proofing the workforce is as important as bridging the digital skills gap now. As the demand for a specific skill set is continuously changing, we’ve added new components to our trainings, expanding the initial digital marketing modules with new content on privacy and security, as well as soft business skills. In parallel, we always strive to keep our training materials up to date with emerging topics such as machine learning.

Programs should address the needs of a diverse audience and challenge traditional assumptions.

Many people assume that it’s mostly young men who are interested in learning about digital. Our experience has taught us that this is not the case: More than 40 percent of the people who have taken our training so far are women. In Germany, we continue to work with Fraunhofer IAIS on their Open Roberta program, teaching young women how to code. Our trainings are also suitable for a wide range of age groups—from students to pensioners—and challenge the preconception that unemployed people are unlikely to become digital experts. In Sweden we’ve developed training with the National Employment Agency to help unemployed people learn to build a web presence, use Search to find jobs, get tips to enhance their CV, and use social media.

Platform agnosticism is important.

Grow with Google lessons not only cover Google products and services, but also products and tools offered by other providers. This means that the training is as current and relevant to participant needs as possible.

These independent recommendations and others from IPPR are available on IPPR’s website, and will inform our digital skills work going forward. We hope they also provide useful guidance to our partners and other skills providers, governments and NGOs across the region who are all devoted to building the workforce of the future.

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