Google Certificates Program Allocates $100 Million to Help Low-Income Americans Upskill

This week Google unrolled a new $100 million program in partnership with three nonprofits – Year Up, Merit America, and Social Finance. The program will connect low-income workers with skills from Google's IT certificate programs along with career guidance and soft skills coaching. Learn how the program will work and what it aims to accomplish in this post.
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Yesterday, February 17th, Google announced a $100 million partnership with three nonprofits – Year Up, Merit America, and Social Finance. The goal of the partnership will be to help low-income workers learn high-demand tech skills and secure higher paying jobs.


What Issues is Google Trying to Solve With this Program?

Computer and IT jobs are some of the fastest growing jobs in the country – with projected growth of 13% over the next decade and median wages more than double the median wage in the country as a whole. While companies are eager to hire and pay skilled workers to fill these positions, it can be difficult for low-income workers to access the right training and connect with employers due to a lack of professional networking opportunities. To solve this problem, Google’s new program will connect low-income workers with technical training provided by Year Up and Merit America with no upfront cost. The students that go on to secure jobs in the tech industry that pay at least $40,000 a year will then pay back the cost of the training at a rate of about $100 a month (and for no longer than five years). The repayments will go towards funding training for new cohorts of students. 


How Does the Collaboration Between Google, Year Up, Merit America, and Social Finance Work?

Year Up and Merit America are two distinct skills training nonprofits that have been working to help low-income students attain highly marketable skill sets. Year Up was founded in 2000 by Gerald Chertavian after working for years with the Big Brother Big Sister program and Merit America was founded in 2018 by co-founders Rebecca Taber Staehelin and Connor Diemand-Yauman, both formerly of Ed-Tech giant Coursera.

Year Up and Merit America have historically served slightly different demographics of students, with Year Up mainly working with younger adults aged 18 to 26 and Merit America working with adults in their 30s who have many years of work experience, but often in low-wage jobs. 

Google will supply the technical curriculums and the initial funding to Year Up and Merit America, while the two nonprofits will handle student relations and job readiness. The fourth member of the collaboration, Social Finance will handle the loan repayment aspect of the project.


How Will the Program Work?

The program will be set up similarly to many coding bootcamp programs whereby students pay little to nothing upfront to gain high-demand tech skills. Then, once they have secured a new job using their new skills, they begin to repay the cost of the program. Here’s a breakdown of how the Google program will work:


  • Students from low-income backgrounds enroll in training programs with either Year Up or Merit America.
  • Over the course of the program, Year Up or Merit America teaches the students skills drawn from Google certificate courses like data analytics, project management, and UX design
  • Merit America and Year Up also provide career coaching and job search support to help students find jobs in IT or computer science after completing the training.
  • Once students have signed on to a new job that pays at least $40,000 a year they will begin repaying the cost of tuition at a rate of about $100 a month. The loan will carry no interest and will be repaid in a maximum time frame of five years.


What Will the Outcome Be?

Ideally, Google’s investment in upskilling the workforce will improve the tech industry as a whole by increasing the availability and diversity of highly skilled workers. To learn more about the importance of diversity in tech see the CodingBootcamps Diversity in Tech Scholarship page.

The program will also impact the lives of many individuals by connecting them with jobs that pay a livable wage and help them work fewer hours while supporting themselves and their families. It will take some time to see how the results play out but, if the prior successes of Year Up and Merit America are any indication, we can expect to see a positive impact on the tech industry and the economic conditions for working class individuals.

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