- Google and the National 4-H Council announced a $6 million grant to provide equipment, resources and training to youth in rural and underserved communities. The partnership aims to provide free education to 1 million young people in the computer sciences over the next three years, via an expansion of the 4-H Computer Science Career Pathway program. The program, which started with a $2 million grant in 2017, has reached over 325,000 young people since its inception.
- The partnership capitalizes on 4-H's outreach and educational experience, the announcement noted. In addition to funding and equipment, Google's employee volunteers have provided more than 1,000 hours of support to the group as it navigates bringing computer science education to the 6 million children 4-H serves annually.
- The expansion will provide new education programs in 15 additional states, including Alaska, Kansas, Kentucky and North Dakota. The grant will also provide expansion of programs already in place in California, Indiana, Illinois and several other states. In addition to computer fluency, the programs help young people develop problem solving and leadership skills.
Google has made multiple efforts to broaden access to learning across the country. In just the past year, Google announced a $5 million grant specifically aimed at improving Latino students' access to computer science education (part of a separate $25 million commitment) and revealed collaborations with a number of organizations, including Goodwill, to expand training programs.
These programs speak to the lack of access to well-paid tech jobs in many communities, which may create even starker divides as the digital revolution takes hold. Google is far from the only company involved in expanding education. Other tech giants, including Facebook and IBM, are investing in education in underserved communities with grants, scholarship funding and even a STEM high school, in IBM's case. And even more tech companies, including Boeing and Microsoft, are teaming up to rethink tech training more broadly.
The training efforts are, in some ways, a matter of existential importance for the tech industry overall. Talent shortage emerged as a top risk for organizations in 2019, according to a Gartner report, and upskilling workers is considered the key to fighting it. But in addition to adding to their talent pipeline, programs that focus on accessibility also tend to improve diversity and inclusion efforts, too — another key challenge in the tech industry.