Equipping Americans with skills for the digital age

Since 2017, Grow with Google and Google.org have supported Goodwill's job training programs, which help Americans learn the digital skills they need to grow their careers. Now we’re looking at the impact of these programs, and exploring ways to encourage smart investments in the digital skills space.

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Changing economy

Year in review


job seekers find employment

Today’s job market is changing dramatically. In just one generation, technologies have transformed nearly every business and workplace, creating a new class of in-demand workers: the digital workforce. According to a 2017 Brookings report, nearly two-thirds of all new jobs created since 2010 required either high- or medium-level digital skills.1

People with digital skills — ranging from keyboarding to advanced programming — have the potential to open more doors, increase their wages, and change the trajectory of their careers. Without basic digital skills, job seekers struggle to find employment. This hits traditionally underserved communities the hardest, as these populations face the highest barriers to digital training.

“I’m now doing more technical and supervisory work in IT than I’ve ever done before.”

George, Tulsa, OK

Our commitment to training the digital workforce

Year in review


people reached through digital awareness training

Google.org supports the programs that put technology to work to solve complex human challenges. It ensures that everyone has access to the digital economy, and is prepared to effectively navigate our increasingly digital world. As a part of these efforts, we’ve supported nonprofit organizations and researchers to improve the state of job training. In 2017, Google.org provided support to Goodwill, which reaches more than two million people per year, to explore ways of better equipping Americans with digital skills. This support of Goodwill is a part of the Grow with Google initiative, Google's program to remove barriers to digital skills training.

Goodwill helps people, regardless of education level or economic background, reach their potential through learning and the power of work. It provides basic skills development, occupational skills training, and job placement assistance to move people into medium- and high-wage jobs in every industry.

As part of the launch of Grow with Google, Google.org announced our support of the creation of the Goodwill Digital Career Accelerator® (GDCA). Aiming to jump-start career opportunities for 1.2 million people by 2021, the GDCA helps Goodwill reshape how it responds to the digital economy, with support from Google’s tools, resources, and talent. This initiative is supported by a $10 million Google.org grant and access to the Google IT Support Professional Certificate, a first-of-its-kind online program from Grow with Google that teaches skills for a career in IT support. The success of GDCA is also bolstered by over 1,000 Google volunteers.

Growing Goodwill’s impact

Year in review


locations that have implemented GDCA program

After one year of the GDCA grant, Goodwill is already seeing training programs gain momentum and drive impact. The grant has enabled Goodwill to provide digital skills training and place thousands of people in employment.

The GDCA program is currently active in 93 Goodwill organizations across 34 states. In 2019, Goodwill will roll the program out to additional Goodwill organizations, bringing the total to 126 Goodwills across the US.

Overcoming job seeker challenges

In collaboration with Goodwill, we recently conducted more than twenty interviews with local Goodwill organizations around the country to better understand the GDCA’s impact after one year. This helped surface the challenges faced by local Goodwill leaders, coaches, and GDCA program participants, and highlighted how they’re overcoming hurdles. Through these conversations, a few lessons rose to the top.

People struggle to navigate a sea of training options.

By partnering with third-party training providers, such as job centers and Career One Stops, some Goodwills have co-located and streamlined job services. This helps job seekers to find all the training they needed in one place, and lets Goodwill enhance the training by providing expertise in digital skills.

Training providers find it hard to build trust in underserved communities.

In some locations, Goodwill employed community outreach workers to organically communicate the value of Goodwill’s training programs in disadvantaged communities.

People mistake mobile literacy for digital mastery.

Goodwills have incorporated a standard baseline assessment, which mimics skills specific to a workplace, to explain the differences between mobile literacy and workplace digital readiness.

Many people feel intimidated by learning digital skills.

Learning about digital skills training, and taking one-on-one training, in a familiar Goodwill neighborhood location can help learners feel less intimidated by new concepts.

Transportation barriers are widespread, but are often inadequately addressed.

Goodwill is finding creative ways to tackle transportation barriers, such as providing bus pass stipends or strategically locating training facilities along bus routes and, in certain circumstances like extremely rural communities, bringing classrooms to students via vans or pop up classes.

Instructors struggle to identify the best training.

Goodwill fosters opportunities for peer learning, particularly around what has worked and what hasn’t in digital training. Centralized tools and training materials are important to foster collaboration beyond in person convenings.

Training programs often overlook the basics.

Google.org and Goodwill created a robust framework to assess digital training needs. This framework helps providers identify gaps in their training and define entry points for individuals with little basic digital skills.

Job seekers struggle to prove digital skills learned.

By mapping Goodwill’s digital skills training to employer-validated credentials, Goodwill is helping job seekers provide evidence of their new skills.
  • 1 Brookings, Digitalization and the American Workforce, p15
  • * Numbers based on best available data and validated by Mission Measurement

Turning learnings into action

Looking ahead, we have a few big ideas for how to advance digital skills training approaches more broadly, which we think can significantly boost impact. Based on our learnings from Goodwill, here are a few ideas we encourage digital skills stakeholders, including policy makers, funders, and training providers, to explore.

  • Develop a simple-to-use tool to surface the best-quality, third-party training and intelligently match instructors with the right curricula.
  • Invest in AI technology like chatbot coaches make learning customized and available on-demand.
  • Open-source labor market data to give nonprofits better insight into people and markets they’re serving.
  • Encourage software engineers and data analysts to volunteer with nonprofit training providers to help them streamline data collection and reporting processes.
  • Create provider-targeted training and certifications to help instructors build their knowledge of best practices and effective approaches for increasingly digital curricula.

Learn more about our 2018 impact

We’re excited to help Goodwill build upon the GDCA and to support other organizations that are positively shaping the future of work. Learn more about unexpected challenges, creative solutions, 2018 progress, and how we’re working together to help job seekers succeed in the future.

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