Google announces a new $75 million fund to train workers in AI—and a new $49 online AI course

Google announces a new $75 million fund to train workers in AI—and a new $49 online AI course

Google is promising to teach one million Americans AI skills by providing grants to partner organizations like Goodwill and Miami Dade College, both of which will offer the course for free.

BY AJ Hess

The biggest tech companies in the world are in the middle of a heated race to build the most powerful and popular generative AI products. That means they’re also in a race to hire the employees needed to build these tools. 

A 2023 survey of employers found that the number one most in-demand skill is knowledge of AI, that 72% of companies plan to invest in AI upskilling, and 83% of leaders say their organization is moving quickly on AI skills training. However, according to the World Economic Forum’s 2023 future of jobs report, just half of workers currently have access to AI training. 

Amidst this race, on Friday, Google announced a new $75 million “AI Opportunity Fund” through the company’s philanthropic arm, as well as a new $49 AI course offered online through Coursera. The initiative promises to teach one million Americans AI skills by providing grants to partner organizations, which will offer the course for free. Partners will include employers like Goodwill and higher education institutes like Miami Dade College.

The online course called “Google AI Essentials” should take learners less than 10 hours to complete, is product agnostic, and covers foundational AI skills, AI best practices, and how to use AI responsibly. 

“People need to know that AI tools hallucinate. They need to know that there can be inherent biases in these tools and that it’s important to have a human in the loop when you’re using them,” says Lisa Gevelber, founder of the tech behemoth’s “Grow with Google” program. “We want to make sure that people are savvy consumers and users of the tool.”

“All jobs are digital jobs. All jobs are going to be AI jobs,” says Steve Preston, CEO of Goodwill, citing figures from a recent McKinsey report which found that low-wage workers are 14 times more likely to be replaced by AI, compared to high-wage workers. “This isn’t just about preparing people to become programmers, or help desk people, or that type of thing; it’s about giving people what are increasingly gateway skills.”

Preston says that the majority of Goodwill’s employees have a high school degree or less, and that especially for this demographic, “there’s a very significant ability for people to increase their income if they break through these basic digital skill levels.”

This is not Google’s first upskilling endeavor. The company has partnered with Goodwill for years and says they have trained over 11 million workers in digital skills since 2017, through initiatives like online courses and credentials. Some experts believe these sorts of educational approaches will play an increasingly important role in the future of work, as the accelerating speed of technological advancement will require workers to consistently upskill and re-skill.

“There’s no question: Jobs are going to change. And that is a real opportunity,” says Gevelber. “Our society is so far past the point where you can learn everything you’ll need to know for your career during a college education. Things change too quickly.”

The good news, according to Gevelber? “People are great learners.”

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

AJ Hess is a staff editor for Fast Company’s Work Life section. AJ previously covered work and education for CNBC. 


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