Google says that it will consider its new bite-sized, $300 training certificates as the “equivalent of a four-year degree for related roles” in a move that triggered a firestorm of debate this week, as traditional entry routes to tech continue to shift.
The Google Career Certificates scheme was originally designed to increase access to IT support jobs, but the programme was expanded this summer to take in three new areas: data analytics, project management, and UX Design.
Google says the six-month courses are designed and taught by Googlers who are experts in their field, and equip participants with the essential skills they need to get a job. No degree or prior experience is required to take the course, and those who complete it get access to the Google IT Certificate Employer Consortium, where they can connect to top tech employers such as Intel and Hulu, as well as Google itself, in a bid to land much sought-after jobs. While the scheme may be tempting to those looking to change career, others in the industry are more skeptical about its merits.
Software engineering legend Grady Booch, chief scientist for software engineering at IBM Research, is one of several leading industry figures to voice concerns, saying Google risks creating a “generation of disposable developers”.
So @google, in so doing you will produce a generation of disposable developers who will have no understanding of the ethics of computing, the history of computing, the theoretic underpinnings of computing, or the ability to learn how to learn. https://t.co/4ff7uURHPx
— Grady Booch (@Grady_Booch) August 4, 2020
Dr Chris Meah is founder of School of Code, which aims to help people from a wide variety of backgrounds, including the unemployed and refugees, get into computing. He disagrees, and welcomed the move.
He said: “I think it’s a good thing overall, having companies like Google showing that university level education isn’t everything. We’re seeing more and more that having a degree isn’t particularly relevant to a career as a programmer, and the more routes that are available for people the better, especially if it encourages other companies to do the same.
“It’s strange that they are charging for it – paying to get the opportunity to maybe work at Google is a bit odd – I don’t see why one of the world’s richest companies would put that extra barrier there.”
Birmingham-based School of Code runs 16-week bootcamps for people with no technical background, where they can learn to programme and how to work effectively as part of a high-performance team.
The bootcamps are delivered free of charge thanks to the support of the West Midlands Combined Authority and big local employers such as Santander and Bravissimo, who pay School of Code when they hire a graduate of the courses.
Chris adds that the lack of a team-work aspect could hinder those undertaking the Google scheme.
“The bigger issue is that if people could simply learn how to code on their own there wouldn’t be a problem in the first place because the internet is full of everything you need,” he said.
“People who learn on their own usually have some kind of technical background, or have a support network who can help. It’s much more difficult if you’re a complete beginner.”
Google has not disclosed how many people secured new jobs as the result of its initial IT Support Certificate scheme, launched in 2019.
In the impact report on the programme it says that 84% of those who took part felt it had a positive impact on their careers, though the report also reveals that 43% of participants already had a four-year college degrees. Computer Business Review has reached out to Google for further comment.
With respect to the whole degree discussion, 2 things can simultaneously be true:
1. You DON’T need a CS degree to be gainfully employed as a software engineer
2. $300 + 6 months of training is not an equivalent experience to a 4 year accredited CS program
— Kevin Stewart (@kstewart) August 5, 2020
In a blog post announcing the launch of the new career certificates, Kent Walker, Google’s SVP of global affairs said the company would be providing 100,000 free scholarships to those who might not otherwise be able to access the programme.
What do you look for when hiring a tech team? Is a CS degree important to you? Let us know.