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Google To Invest More Than $1 Billion In Digital Literacy, Workforce Development

Margaret J. Krauss
90.5 WESA
More than 200 people gathered at Google's Pittsburgh headquarters on Thursday, Oct. 12, 2017 for the launch of new economic programs.

Technology alone won’t prepare people to build careers or pursue education in a rapidly changing economy.

That was the message from Google executives and state and local officials who gathered at the company’s Pittsburgh headquarters Thursday to announce new online tools and more than $1 billion in funding for nonprofits that seek to close gaps in education and the labor market nationwide.

“The nature of work is fundamentally changing, and that is shifting the link between education, training and opportunity,” said Sundar Pichai, Google’s CEO and a Carnegie Mellon University alumnus. “Young people already feel this.” Pichai cited a Google-sponsored report from The Economist that found less than half of 18- to 25-year olds feel their education prepares them to enter today’s workforce.

To combat that problem, Pichai announced Grow with Google, a new initiative and online resource in the United States that aims to help Americans get jobs or grow their businesses. Over the next five years the company will award $1 billion in grants to nonprofits worldwide who work to help close the education gap, prepare people for the changing of work and ensure everyone can access opportunity. Google employees will volunteer one million hours to expand the capacity of those nonprofits.

In addition, over the next three years, Google will grant $10 million to Goodwill to provide digital skills to more than 1.2 million people.

“We understand this uncertainty and even concern about the pace of technological change,” said Pichai. “But we know that technology will be an engine of America’s growth for years to come.”

Grow with Google’s online hub allows teachers, businesses and individuals looking to sharpen their digital skills to access training resources and professional certifications for free. Google employees will also team up with libraries and nonprofits across the country to host in-person trainings and offer career and business advice.

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto lauded Google’s partnership with the city and then waved east, toward the neighborhoods of East Liberty, Larimer and Homewood.

“You know, we look out the window right here, and we see a part of Pittsburgh that isn’t being touched by all the great things that are happening,” he said. “We see companies investing billions into this city and into this region, but we still know that 30 percent of the people of Pittsburgh have no direct connection to that … and for a city of bridges, we are not providing that same opportunity for all.”

Google’s announcement means big things for entrepreneurs in Pittsburgh, said Nisha Blackwell, founder and CEO of Knotzland Bow Ties, a  Homewood-based company featured in a video for the event.

“It’s less about finding your way, as a lot of us do, and now it’s more, we will bring the tools to you to help you be successful,” she said.

While in nursing school, Blackwell lost her job at a coffee shop and used YouTube to teach herself how to sew. First she made hair bows for a friend’s daughter, and then expanded to create artisan bow ties and more. She said it was amazing to see Google commit effort and resources to help people grow their businesses.

“They’re being really intentional about it," Blackwell said.

Also announced Thursday was Impact Challenge Pittsburgh, which asks area nonprofits to submit their most innovative ideas to grow economic opportunity. Local advisers will select four finalists who will each receive a $50,000 grant from google.org, the company's philanthropic arm. Residents will vote for their favorite finalist, which will be awarded an additional $50,000.  

Pennsylvania Speaker of the House Mike Turzai and Governor Tom Wolf thanked Google for the company’s investment and commitment to the region

Margaret J. Krauss is WESA’s senior reporter. She covers development and transportation, and has produced award-winning podcasts on housing, work, and Pittsburgh’s lesser-known history. Before joining the newsroom full time, she covered the challenges facing Pennsylvania cities as a statewide reporter, and spent another life as an assistant editor for National Geographic Kids Magazine in Washington, D.C. She can be reached at mkrauss@wesa.fm.
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