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Lisa Gevelber Founder of Grow With Google | Transforming The Economy Through Education

Lisa Gevelber is the founder and head of Grow with Google, Google’s tech skilling workforce development initiative. She recently spearheaded one of the largest private sector investments in workforce development, a new $100 million fund aimed at getting 20,000 jobseekers access to Grow with Google’s Career Certificates program. Google projects the fund will drive more than $1 billion in aggregate wage gains. Lisa has worked at Google since 2010 and in addition to Grow with Google is the Chief Marketing Officer for the Americas Region.

Lisa Gevelber is the founder and head of Grow with Google, Google’s tech skilling workforce development initiative. Two-thirds of jobs today require some level of digital skills in a country where 65%+ of the population doesn’t have a college degree. Lisa is working to give everyone a fair shot at those jobs by bringing the information and the employees to the same spot. Drawing on experience spanning more than a decade, Lisa talks with Frank Cottle about the great economic opportunity of massive upskilling for employees and employers.


Lisa Gevelber [00:00:00] You say this really is kind of a societal challenge. Even if you just look at the U.S. alone. But 77% of jobs that pay more than $35,000 a year say they require a college degree. You know, two thirds of Americans don’t have a college degree. That’s about 80 million Americans who would be locked out of those jobs. The scale of this problem is is massive. It’s a great mismatch between the jobs that are available and and people having the right skills. And so at Google, we’ve been approaching this problem from a real ecosystem perspective.  

Intro [00:00:34] You’ve scanned the headlines, read the articles and liked the posts. Now listen to the experts themselves in the Future of Work podcast presented by Allwork.Space. Are you ready?  

Frank Cottle [00:00:53] Welcome to the Future of Work podcast. Our guest today is Lisa Grobler, who is the founder and vice president of Grow with Google and also the Chief Marketing Officer for the Americas region at Google. Lisa has worked doing tremendous work with Google’s Tech Skilling Workforce Initiative. She recently spearheaded one of the largest private sector investments in workforce development, a new $100 million fund raised in getting 20,000 job seekers access to grow with Google’s career certificate program. Google projects that the fund will drive more than $1 billion in aggregate wage gains. Google has also worked has worked with Google since 2010. And in addition to go with Google, as I mentioned, as the chief marketing officer for the Americas region. Welcome, Lisa. We’re really grateful for you to spend your time today with us on the Future of Work podcast.  

Lisa Gevelber [00:01:57] Thank you so much for having me.  

Frank Cottle [00:01:59] Because, you know, with all of the work that you’ve done at Google and other places as well, I know you’ve been in this industry, in this sector for a long time. What do you see the need for upskilling, skilling, reskilling and changing the way the capabilities that the workforce has as it relates to the future of work? What changes do you see are necessary?   

Lisa Gevelber [00:02:29] Yeah. I think that all the data is telling us that the need for all of us actually to think more about how we enhance our skills is stronger than ever. So if you look at the World Economic Forum data, it actually says that 50% of us are going to need to reskill over the next few years. So that might sound like a scary number, but actually I think it’s a really big opportunity if most of us need to find a way to enhance our skills. That means that there’s lots of opportunity in the in the space for us to all find greater economic opportunity, maybe new careers or new economic mobility. And so we’ve really been focused on how do you help people all over the world actually enhance their digital skills? Since two thirds of jobs even today require some level of digital skills.  

Frank Cottle [00:03:30] Everything you’re saying there is is so right. And it’s kind of fun because I’ve always told our own teams that their primary goal is to be the best student in the industry. If we are all constantly we have to be students in order to grow and that sort of thing. And it may date myself a little bit, but I’ve also told that I have to be like Madonna. They have to be able to reinvent themselves about every three or four years, come out with a new a whole new capability to address a whole new problem, in her case audience. In our cases, technology is is is a big part of social change is a big part. Economics is a big part as we go through different cycles. So I what you’re saying to me brings more importance than just about any aspect to the workforce. How are you accomplishing it, though, that it’s it’s one thing to say we need it. It’s another thing to say we do.  

Lisa Gevelber [00:04:43] Yeah. Well, we identified a handful of years back this real opportunity to help people get the digital skills they need for today’s jobs. And and, you know, we know that Google had a lot to offer, so we created a bunch of programs that help people with digital skills. And one of the ones that I’m most excited about is our career certificate program. And that program is really designed to help anyone, regardless of their educational background or prior work experience, learn everything they need to know to get into one of a handful of in-demand, high growth, high paying career fields. And so we teach people to become data analysts or I.T. support specialists or user experience designers, project managers or e-commerce and digital marketing managers as well. And what’s exciting about that is all of those career fields are not only really in demand and projected to grow their outstanding careers from a from an economic perspective as well. So our career certificates will take people, even those without a college degree, and really help you get into one of those professions for the first time, which is helping a lot of people access great jobs that they might not have had access to before.  

Frank Cottle [00:06:13] Well, you know. I’m going to hope I’m going to say this right. Google is a great company, but Google is just Google. So this issue that you’re talking about isn’t limited or shouldn’t be limited to what Google can do because it’s ten times bigger than Google. It’s bigger than the U.S. in terms of an issue to to to change the skills that people have, particularly in underserved or, we’ll say, in third world countries and underserved populations, even within primary first world countries. How is Google spreading that word beyond itself? How how is Google being bigger than Google itself in that regard?  

Lisa Gevelber [00:07:02] As you say, this really is kind of a societal challenge. Even if you just look at the U.S. alone. But 77% of jobs that pay more than $35,000 a year say they require a college degree. But we all know that that college degree is really just a proxy for looking for people who have the right skills. And in the U.S. alone. You know, two thirds of Americans don’t have a college degree. That’s about 80 million Americans who would be locked out of those jobs. So, as you say, the scale of this problem is is massive. It’s a great mismatch between the jobs that are available and and people having the right skills. And so at Google, we’ve been approaching this problem from a real ecosystem perspective. Not only have we created outstanding training, which really teaches you everything you need to know. We’ve also built a whole ecosystem around this Google career certificate program. So we work with employers, which is maybe one of the most important parts. We have over 150 employers in the U.S. alone who hire the Google Google career certificate graduates. We also work with educational institutions. We work with workforce development boards. We work with various nonprofits who provide wraparound supports to career certificate learners who want a little extra help, whether it’s career placement or interview training or any of those other things. So really, as you said, giant mismatch in our society between the jobs that are available and that people skills. And we’re working together with partners across the whole ecosystem to help address that issue.  

Frank Cottle [00:08:48] Well, you know, right now we’re in a employee’s market. There are more jobs available than there are people to fill them. Do you feel that the mismatch that the the tech jobs that are available are not able to be filled by the people available today? Or do you think there’s some other underlying issue that relates to everything we hear about the great resignation and everything we hear about dissatisfaction with in large tech companies as an example? Oh, everything we hear about people wanting the lifestyle jobs as opposed to corporate jobs. Is there a mismatch there or something that that we can do to balance that out as well within the programs that you have or just within things that you’ve seen because you have your programs, but you see ten times more than your own programs because of who you are and who you work with.  

Lisa Gevelber [00:09:55] Yeah. You know, I think the key thing is that until now, it wasn’t that easy to find high quality industry recognized credentials that were on demand easily accessible to anyone any time. And so what we’ve really done here, as I said, we’ve created a whole ecosystem of support to make sure that folks can easily get support they need and find the job they’re looking for. But in addition, we did something really important, which is we made a high quality industry recognized credential and we made it on demand, which is important because most people don’t have the luxury of doing a boot camp, sitting in a classroom all day, or even taking classes on a regular schedule. 20% or more of Americans don’t even know their work schedule for the following week. And so they can’t they just can’t commit to being in a classroom Monday and Wednesdays, 2 to 4. So people really needed this kind of high quality credential that was easily accessible and on demand, especially working Americans. So what I think is unique about our approach is these credentials are not only built by Google experts, they’re vetted by top employers. They’re incredibly rigorous and they’re easily available on demand for people to access and learn from. And then there’s this hiring consortium of 150 employers who’ve already posted jobs to the Google Career Certificate Job Board, where the certificate is often actually the preferred hiring credential for that job. And they’re eager to hire the graduates.  

Frank Cottle [00:11:50] And I’m going to go down 2 to 2 routes with you. First, that 150 employers group, could it be 500 or 1500 or. How do you expand that? Or is it a kind of a private club?   

Lisa Gevelber [00:12:08] Gosh, you know, it expands every day.  

Frank Cottle [00:12:11] How can I access those? How could I access those certificated employees?  

Lisa Gevelber [00:12:18] Yeah, actually, if you if you go to our Web site, grow dot Google Forest Certificates, there’s an employer section. And so any employer can sign up to learn more about how to hire our graduates. And I think the 150 reflects mostly large national employers. But we know that there are a lot of regional and local employers who are already tapping into this amazing group of talent all over the country and actually all over the world.   

Frank Cottle [00:12:49] Well, I think that’s an important message to get out, because a company like ourselves, we wouldn’t be recognized as a global tech company, even though we are global and even though we’re tech based. But because we don’t sell technology, we’re enabled as a tech company. But I wouldn’t until I started researching with you, I was totally unaware of this program.   

Lisa Gevelber [00:13:16] Yeah. I mean.  

Frank Cottle [00:13:18] How do we get the word out? Because this is a start.  

Lisa Gevelber [00:13:22] We’d love for you to help, and I think this podcast just might, so that’s great. I think. You know, it’s not just for tech companies that these folks are getting jobs, because as you can imagine, data analysts are needed in pretty much every industry, for example, right? Yeah, right. Retail, construction, health care, education, government. You know, there’s there’s a lot of demand. As a matter of fact, just in the five career fields that we teach, there’s like 1.5 million open jobs in America right now. So this isn’t limited at all to tech companies hiring these folks. As a matter of fact, COVID really drove an increase in need for I.T. support professionals as more and more organizations, large and small, needed to upgrade their systems and learn how to work online. We saw a real demand and an increase in demand in an already rapidly growing field of I.T. support. So this definitely isn’t limited to tech companies hiring. And we should put it in the show notes to this specific URL that employers can go to if they’re interested in signing up. So with that.   

Frank Cottle [00:14:39] I think that is because this is like I say, this is bigger than Google. This is bigger than all of us. This need and I and I’ll just speak from our own parent companies perspective from the large companies perspective, when we went remote, which we went early because we, we, we just did in the pandemic period and everybody went remote. And today still 60, I would say 8% of all of our team members are have chosen to remain remote, which is our policy. It’s your choice at a certain point. But the your your issue around tech support, we’ve had to hire a couple people to make sure that that people don’t founder out there with any technology just to make sure that everything is is as good or better than it was in the office. And so I really can empathize with that. And it’s a tremendous need and it’s a skill set of. Not just a tech skillset, but it’s a people skill set. The tech support job is very, very difficult, especially if they’re working with someone like me. Incredibly difficult. So, no, I get that. You know, the IDC put out a number just before the in 2019 that said prior to the pandemic, this was without pandemic knowledge, foresight that we had a00 1.8 billion remote workers worldwide. And they defined that by people that worked two days or more outside of their primary workplace on a permanent basis. But today, that number must have doubled. I don’t know. I haven’t seen. I’m a I’m sort of a data freak. So I go with you. You think about data analysts. We have a little monitors. Get the data. Data becomes information which can turn into knowledge, which allows action. So get the data. So we’re we’re real built into that process, as you say. But with that many remote workers out there, even on a two day a week basis, the needs for such thing as tech support or training in technology utilization. How to do your job differently has to be monumental. And I know your program is a global program. How much is U.S. or North American also U.S. focused versus other markets? And what’s the impact on those other markets that you’re making? What would the impact be? I know we have a big commitment to Latin America, for example.  

Lisa Gevelber [00:17:38] Yeah. We just made a big announcement about our commitment to Latin America. But this need is really everywhere in the world. And you see that in the people who are using our training. We offer the Google career certificates in 11 languages and we see people all over the world benefiting from them. The other thing that’s been really interesting and you’re kind of alluding to this, too, is the need for companies to upskill or reskill their own workforce. And we see that in spades. As a matter of fact, we recently made a big announcement that any company in the US can upskill their workers for free with a Google career certificates up to 500 licenses. So I think one of the things we noticed is it’s not just the big companies who need to be able to train their workers and upskill them. We know because we work a lot with small businesses at Google that that’s also a an audience who really needs help upskilling their workers. And we wanted to make it easily accessible for them. So this 500 free licenses is the equivalent of about $100,000 worth of free training for any business in America. And we’re we’re really excited to offer that. And we already see lots of people taking advantage of it.   

Frank Cottle [00:19:09] Well, you know, it’s interesting because we are always have several open positions at our own offices, which I mentioned earlier in Monterrey, Mexico, that are tech related. And we have a hard time finding people. So being aware of this programing certification and the skill sets of the graduates could just as an employer in that marketplace, be quite beneficial to a company such as ourselves. And I think we’re we’re fairly common if we have that problem. There must be many others that have that same problem. So you’re not only. Elevating and upselling, upskilling the individual with a certificate. But you’re doing quite a disservice to the employers in the area in the region where you’re working.   

Lisa Gevelber [00:20:02] Yeah. You know.  

Frank Cottle [00:20:04] I’m finding that.   

Lisa Gevelber [00:20:06] Yeah, you know what you’re saying really matches well with the data that we’ve seen. So P.W. Si does a global CEO survey, and in their recent survey, they saw, I think four out of five CEOs say that one of the biggest inhibitors to their growth is finding people with the skills they need for the jobs that they have available. So I think there’s no shortage of excitement from the employer perspective when there’s a high quality training program like our Google career certificates can really help. It helps them solve a problem they have, too.   

Frank Cottle [00:20:46] When you use the term certificate immediately and gender is within my thought process standard, a standard, a common criteria, etc. And I know one of the challenges of a company and I’ll get I’ll use ourselves whenever you cross the border. The same job description doesn’t mean the same person. You, you, you, you. You have challenges when you cross borders with understandings of the same skill set, the same capabilities, etc.. So your certification, which is standardized, should be a tremendous benefit to companies trying to expand across borders. Overall, I would think.   

Lisa Gevelber [00:21:38] Yeah. You know, we create every certificate kind of from the job back. So we start with like a job task analysis and we, we map out all the skills that we think you need to be successful for the job. And we do that even before we really write the curriculum. And then we vet all of that, plus the curriculum with top employers so that we really know that we’re building and we’re building a curriculum and a training platform that really addresses the skills that people need to be successful in those jobs. We we make sure that our program is also very rigorous. So we have over 100 assessments built into each certificate. And you have to pass all of the required assessments with at least an 80% or higher to earn the certificate. And we do that because what we really care about is helping make sure that people are successful in these jobs when they get them. Because our end goal is to create a more equitable and inclusive job market. And the way we do that is by making people really capable and successful in these jobs. And we’re seeing that lead to real economic mobility.  

Frank Cottle [00:22:53] When you go into a job market. How do you recruit candidates for these certification programs? Where do they come from? Do you have a recruitment process and criteria yourself or do you just let it be known? Sort of fields of dreams were here. What’s what’s your process in that regard? And how does it impact your. Any focus you might have on inclusion and diversity in the workforce.  

Lisa Gevelber [00:23:29] Yeah. So we really want to make sure that these certificates are available to everyone. We definitely want to get the word out. We appreciate that your podcast can help us do that too. We also have lots of partners all over the world who are are helping to get the word out and people also discover it directly on the Coursera platform. So we host all of the career certificates on Coursera, which is a really well known platform for people to learn new things. And a lot of folks find it find it directly. We we’ve had a lot of success. And even as we as we look at our graduates, we’ve had a lot of success in graduating people of all backgrounds. Just under half of the people who graduate when they started, they were making less than $30,000 a year, for example, in the US. But they’re graduating into career fields that pay on average more than $60,000. So that’s a tremendous economic trajectory that will really help a lot of American families and all of that in a certificate that you can learn in about 3 to 6 months of part time study. So we’re seeing folks of all backgrounds graduate from the program. About 55% of our graduates are actually black, Latino or Asian. So both people of all income levels, all education levels, and also all different kinds of communities.  

Frank Cottle [00:25:14] Well, you know, I think that’s always been important, but I won’t say that critically important today. It’s always been important. And it’s good to see a path opening up that allows such a critical issue to be addressed. So I think that that’s terrific. We started off that we’re starting to run a little short on time. So I’m going to I’m going to go to the closing questions here. We we started off getting an understanding of what Google is doing. And I want to bring you back around and say, how do you think that what you’re doing on a very high level exploded, if you will, is going to impact the future of work as we look at it overall. And do you think. How is what you’re doing? Part of a movement? Or is it just an independent activity of Google?  

Lisa Gevelber [00:26:22] You know, I think the good news is that skills based hiring is really a trend. And we’re seeing more and more organizations thinking differently about they hire people about how they hire people. And we’re really excited about that. We know that the career certificates help because they’re all about the skills people have, not about the prior work experience or the educational background. So I actually think that that is an amazing trend. We’ll just we all the data says we’ll see more and more of that. And the Google career certificates help make sure that employers know they’re hiring people who have the skills they need and they help create an opportunity for everyone, regardless of your background, to easily get those skills.  

Frank Cottle [00:27:11] But to my question, is this a movement that Google has started or is a part of overall that you see that will have an even broader impact on the future of work? Or or do you see it as a a straight ahead approach by Google itself?  

Lisa Gevelber [00:27:33] I mean, we are really focused on creating a more equitable and inclusive job market. And I think making great jobs accessible for more people is, is what this initiative growth Google is really all about and super excited to see how much traction we’ve had already. We’ve graduated over 200,000 people from our career certificate program in a very short period of time.  

Frank Cottle [00:28:02] So that that’s a huge number for any program. In fact, I would I would think that with the leadership that you all have provided in this regard, that you’re materially outdoing our own government because, you know, we all talk when we talk about government and its role and everything about all the things it needs to do and supporting skills improvement, supporting every opportunity to create advancement in the workforce is a tremendous part of that that you’ve taken on the mantle of. And and, you know, I’m usually not gushing at somebody, but I think this is all terrific and.  

Lisa Gevelber [00:28:53] So much.  

Frank Cottle [00:28:54] Fun to just thank you as a guest, which we really appreciate. But I want to thank you for what you’re doing because I think it’s critically important, not just here in the U.S., but on a global basis. You know, we do business in 54 countries and so we see the challenges that are out there. And this is very much something that’s needed and very much needed on a standardized basis for all companies. So with that, I’ll thank you. You’ve been very gracious in sharing your time with us today, and we’re very appreciative of that. Lisa.  

Lisa Gevelber [00:29:32] Thank you so much. Take care.   

Frank Cottle [00:29:35] You, too.  

Outro [00:29:36] If it’s impacting the future of work, it’s in the Future of Work. Podcast by Allwork.Space. Are you ready?  

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