Google (GOOG, GOOGL) and Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai believes the digital divide is "easier to bridge than most people think."
"Whenever I travel, including in the U.S. and around the world, people are actually hungry to be part of the digital economy. They want to join this journey. They see the opportunities. And on the other side, it's always amazing, because companies have a lot of job openings which need digital skills, but they can't, often, find people. So you see this gap, and I think it's an important thing for all of us to realize," Pichai told Yahoo Finance in an exclusive interview.
According to Pichai, a six-, nine-, or 12-month course in digital skills "can have a profound impact on a person's career."
In 2017, Google launched its "Grow with Google" initiative "to give anyone in America the tools and training they need to get a job, for free."
"It's a billion-dollar commitment over five years. We've committed to training tens of millions of people on digital skills," Pichai added.
The CEO pointed to the Google IT career certificate program's success, which he said has helped improve representation in technology.
"You tap into people who normally wouldn't be part of the sector. And with that career certificate, you can see the impact it has on their lives. And so hopefully, we are doing it to catalyze the space, and it's something I'm very passionate about," he added.
To be sure, Pichai still thinks college is "very important," but not everyone has that opportunity for a variety of reasons.
"I think it's our duty to make sure it's possible, even without a college degree, to have a meaningful and fulfilling life. And that's where all the innovations come in," he said.
For the next generation, Pichai thinks the future of education will require "continual learning" and the "ability to upskill yourself somewhere through your career," both of which are "two important realizations I think society needs."
"I think gone are those times where you read once, and that's enough. For many people, they would need to have career shifts. And which is why ongoing skilling is important. And I think that's what even our digital upskilling effort teaches us. Something in a 6-to-12-month window at some point in your life can be very profound," Pichai said.
When it comes to upskilling, "a lot more could be done" in the U.S, he added.
"Today, I see a lot of grants from governments around education, but not all of it applies towards, not enough goes into the kind of digital skilling I'm talking about. So I think community colleges could play a stronger role. Federal grants like Pell grants could support all of this."
APRIL 27th 2021: Google parent company Alphabet posts big first quarter gains following coronavirus pandemic uncertainty – with a reported total revenue of $55.3 billion over the past three months, up 34 percent compared to the same period last year. Additionally, the company’s net income jumped dramatically – from $6.8 billion in the first quarter of 2020 to $17.9 billion in Q1 2021. – File Photo by: zz/STRF/STAR MAX/IPx 2020 8/14/20 Businesses and retail stores in Manhattan on August 14, 2020 as certain restrictions are eased as part of the Phase 4 Reopening in New York City during the worldwide coronavirus pandemic. While many of the larger corporations have managed to navigate the financial storm caused by the pandemic, other retailers have struggled to stay in business. Here, Google offices in Midtown. (NYC)
Julia La Roche is a correspondent for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter.
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