Google invests in job training program for low-income workers

Employment programs, Year Up and Merit America, will receive grants to train students in technical skills with content from Google’s Career Certificate courses in information technology support, data analytics, project management and user experience design. Both nonprofits already use Google’s courses, which provide general technical training but don’t teach students how to master Google’s software tools.

But a big part of successful training programs, experts agree, is what they do beyond teaching technical skills. The programs also emphasize so-called soft skills such as teamwork, communication and a willingness to learn new things. They often provide help with arranging childcare and transportation. They have career coaches, social workers and counselors, and foster peer groups and alumni networks.

“Skills and competencies are important, but so is building a person’s social capital,” said Gerald Chertavian, founder and CEO of Year Up.

Launched more than two decades ago, Year Up is now a national organization for low-income workers aged 18-26. It includes three to six months of technical training followed by a six-month work placement. Eighty percent of its graduates are placed within four months, with an average starting salary of $44,000, more than double their previous income, according to the organization.

Social Finance, which runs the investment program, is looking to add a few more professional training groups later this year. An independent research firm, MDRC, will assess the performance of training and placement programs over time.

“We will allocate more funds to those who perform better,” said Tracy Palandjian, managing director of Social Finance, which is not linked to online lender SoFi. “It’s all about impact.”

Merit America has grown rapidly since it began offering classes in 2018. From the start, it was a hybrid program, with self-paced online training, in-person meetings once a week with other students and individual sessions with coaches.

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