Google CEO unveils tech training programs at Pittsburgh campus
In an effort to narrow the evergrowing digital gap so that more people can benefit from a tech-first economy, Google announced a new initiative — a $1 billion investment in nonprofit organizations over the next five years.
The announcement, made at Google’s Bakery Square campus on Thursday, includes the Internet giant’s largest single gift to date, a $10 million donation to Goodwill Industries to launch a “digital career accelerator” that will help people to learn digital skills at all of the nonprofit’s locations.
Under the “Grow With Google” initiative, the company also will provide free training, tools and events to help individuals cultivate their skills, careers or their businesses. On the platform, Google hosts a myriad of quick videos and lessons to teach small businesses how to improve their digital marketing, to help job-seekers gain information technology certification and to teach anyone basic coding skills.
At a local level, the company said it will launch a competition for nonprofits called the “Google.org Impact Challenge Pittsburgh,” gifting five $50,000 grants for proposals that could change Pittsburgh’s neighborhoods for the better, according to Laura Dickey, program manager for Google Shopping at the office in Larimer.
Google CEO Sundar Pichai said such programs are important. By 2020, one in three jobs “will require skills that aren’t common today,” he said, citing a World Economic Forum report.
Long before the luxury highrise apartment boom and before the city could have made a bid for a corporate headquarters for the likes of Amazon; and decades before Pittsburgh started popping up on the best foodie lists, there were universities churning out top talent — but with less to show for it.
Mr. Pichai has visited the city at least four times since he made his first trip 24 years ago from his hometown of Chennai, India. It was the first time he had visited the United States, he told a crowd
of at least 200.
“I remember 20 years ago,” Mr. Pichai told the Post-Gazette. “I wouldn’t believe it, coming back and seeing Pittsburgh like this.”
And yet, there is concern that Pittsburgh’s technology sectorwill see slowed growth.
Between 2011 and 2015, 17,795people graduated from a university in Pittsburgh with adegree related to technology, but just 8,140 jobs in the sector were added between 2012 and 2016, according to a study by Los Angeles, Calif.-based commercial real estate company CBREGroup Inc.
To combat this phenomenon, the city needs to provide more regional venture capital to local startups. Beyond that, Mr. Pichai said cities must create a “critical mass” of not only universities and startups, but of large corporations.
“I think the best thing that cities can do is to create the right climate, get that capstone first company or initiative to happen, which I think leads to more things,” Mr. Pichai said.
Pittsburgh has been trying to reinvent itself since the city’s steel complex began to fade. In the early 1980s, 415 technology companies employed almost 34,000 people, including 180 companies hiring in the electronics sector, according to “Twentieth-century Pittsburgh: The Post-Steel Era.”
At the helm of one of the most powerful companies in the world, Mr. Pichai said he believes that closing the digital divide through free programming is essential to ensuring not only future economic growth, but success for individuals.
“Even a little bit helps people in the right direction. There’s no magic answer,” he said. “I think all these little things, what all of these organizations do, matter. We want to see how we can scale them up or accelerate their work or make them better through technology.”
Still, he lamented that industry and the private sector can only do so much.
“I think the government has to do it, educational programs have to do it, and all the companies sort of play a part. It’s a long game,” Mr. Pichai said.
“I think technology is going to be important both in business and society, and so figuring out how to slightly transform, even if it takes 20 years, is vital. I think Pittsburgh is a good story.”
Google CEO Sundar Pichai believes that closing the digital divide through free programming is essential to ensuring not only future economic growth, but success for individuals.
Gov. Tom Wolf gives a thumbs up to Scott Baker, owner of 5 Generations Bakers, Thursday at Bakery Square in East Liberty.