Home / Blog / College Degree or Google’s degree?

College Degree or Google’s degree?

Google is creating courses that fit industry demand, better than a college degree. Image credit: Google

For the last 20 years I have heard, and been involved to a certain extent, the complain from industry on the education delivered by college and university, particularly in technical areas. According to several voices in the industry the new engineers where not sufficiently qualified to be productive in the industrial world. A few companies decided to complement their education with specific industry focussed education (that is not saying that industry trained the ner hires for a specific task, that goes without saying).
University and College have been, obviously, involved in the discussion and there have been some changes in the courses and in the overall education program but I still hear industry pointing at gaps. The rapid evolution of technology and of business process is not helping either. In several areas, by the time you finish your 4 year graduate program, carefully trimmed to the latest advances of technology, a good deal of what you have learnt is obsolete.

We have seen in the last five years several companies setting up industry graduation programs where new hires undergo a 6 month- 1 year intensive education to prepare them to their future jobs (my youngest son is actually involved in one of these programs).

As university/college education is not meeting the needs of industry we are starting to hear voices saying that graduation is no longer a pre-requisite to apply for a job (a job that till last year required graduation). Job postings in the last two years from Apple, Google and several other companies no longer requires employees to have a college degree. This does not mean at all that selection is easier, you still need to be a bit amazing of you want to have hope to be hired in those companies. Quite simply, having a graduate degree does not make you any more amazing as a potential candidate.

Google started a two Genius courses (Google IT support, Google IT Automation with Python) that will give you a Career Certificate and is planning for three more – Data analyst, Product manager, UX Designer.

All these courses are planned over a 6 month time (requiring a paltry 5 hours a day of engagement) at a cost around 300$.

Over 600,000 people joined the first two courses with an 85% leaving a 5-star review!

Reality check: it is obvious to me that these courses DO NOT compare to a university graduation program. They are very much focussed and provide the knowledge a person would need to operate in a given context, i.e. data analytics. On the contrary, a graduation program will provide a much broader set of knowledge that would allow the graduated person to tackle a variety of job positions, possibly none with the degree of knowledge and skill that is provided by one of the Google Genius course BUT only on that specific topic.

Point is that a company seeking for that specific skill would probably be better off with a person out of one of those courses. Over the longer term it is most likely that a person graduated from a (good) university would be better positioned to engage in other tasks and be more productive for that company.

However we are moving towards a labour landscape with temporary employment, no longer lifetime employment with a company. You get hired to do a particular job at this particular time and once it is over you move on, either to another company requiring your skill or to acquire new skills to remain attractive in the job market.

I have no doubt that this focussed education will pick up for its effectiveness. At the same time I can see the creation of a double layer of educated resources, one fitting spot needs and always changing, the other addressing broader needs. This latter may be better served by college and university graduation.

About Roberto Saracco

Roberto Saracco fell in love with technology and its implications long time ago. His background is in math and computer science. Until April 2017 he led the EIT Digital Italian Node and then was head of the Industrial Doctoral School of EIT Digital up to September 2018. Previously, up to December 2011 he was the Director of the Telecom Italia Future Centre in Venice, looking at the interplay of technology evolution, economics and society. At the turn of the century he led a World Bank-Infodev project to stimulate entrepreneurship in Latin America. He is a senior member of IEEE where he leads the Industry Advisory Board within the Future Directions Committee and co-chairs the Digital Reality Initiative. He teaches a Master course on Technology Forecasting and Market impact at the University of Trento. He has published over 100 papers in journals and magazines and 14 books.