Google and Coursera recently announced a new program to train IT support professionals. Digging into the details, it's clear that this may be one of the most interesting and socially valuable applications of MOOC technology yet. Read on to find out the who, where, what, when, why and how.
What's up with the Google and Coursera announcement?
The Google IT Support Professional Certificate program includes six courses designed to prepare newcomers or career-changers with little or no IT skills to occupy an entry-level tech support or help desk job. Conceived and initially designed by Google, then implemented and elaborated as a team effort involving both Google and Coursera, it will be available through Coursera's online training delivery platform.
This infographic from Google and Coursera covers the basic elements, except it doesn't mention that the content is broken into six course modules, each scheduled to run six weeks, 8 to 10 hours per week (with a single exception, as noted below):
Course 1: Technical Support Fundamentals
Course 2: The Bits and Bytes of Computer Networking
Course 3: Operating Systems and You: Becoming a Power User
Course 4: System Administration and IT Infrastructure Services
Course 5: IT Automation: It's Not That Scary (7 weeks, 8-10 hours a week)
Course 6: IT Security: Defense Against the Digital Dark Arts
Kevin Mills, Coursera's head of industry partners and one of the lead managers on this project, indicated that all the training and other materials are self-paced and available on demand. That means that somebody could conceivably finish the program in nine to 10 weeks if they were willing to treat it as a typical full-time job of 40 hours a week.
"The more time you put in," Mills said, "the faster a person could finish." That means somebody with a serious need for gainful employment could line themselves up to start interviewing for a real job in less than three months, starting from scratch.
The curriculum and its certificate are designed to attract a variety of potential candidates. The resulting jobs are entry level, which attract persons under 21 as a rule, and those up to their late 20s as a matter of statistical necessity. This group often sees the highest level of unemployment.
Other key target groups include the unemployed or underemployed, especially the 4.9 million Americans who are working part time but would rather be working full time, according to the most recent Employment Situation Summary from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Still other groups are those persons in need of retraining and reskilling to move from some other field into IT, and even IT professionals already in the field interested in refreshing their knowledge and skill sets.
Google announced 100,000 scholarships in conjunction with the program to pay the cost of the tuition. A portion of those scholarships will be offered through leading nonprofits such as Year Up, Per Scholas, Goodwill, Student Veterans of America and Upwardly Global. The remaining will go to individuals whose applications are accepted.
The deadline for submitting an application is Feb. 20, 2018. The Apply Now link for the program is on the Coursera site: If you think you might be interested, click that link soon. Applicants must reside in the U.S. or its territories (Puerto Rico, Guam, U.S. Virgin Islands, Northern Mariana Islands and American Samoa), be 18 years of age of older, and demonstrate financial need. By submitting the application, you agree to the program's terms and conditions, so be sure to review them before you push the Submit button.
When will I learn if I get a scholarship?
Applicants in need of financial support must apply by Feb. 20, 2018. You will be notified within a week after filling out the application if support is forthcoming. Upon receipt of the award, candidates have 14 days to enroll. Access to the program will be available until May 8, 2019. How long it takes to complete the program depends on how much time you have to put into studying. The program is designed for 10 hours a week of effort, and takes 36 or 37 weeks to complete.
Why do this?
If you fit any of the target demographics and are interested in IT, or simply in need of a quality job (the median U.S. IT salary in 2017 was $52,000, so those who complete this program will earn somewhat less), I don't need to explain the value of this proposition. But for those in need of convincing, it's nice to be on the team that plans to keep recruiting players for the foreseeable future. According to Google, there are 150,000 entry-level IT jobs in help desk and tech support in need of filling right now, and that demand is only going to increase in the months and years ahead.
Visit the Coursera homepage for the Google IT Support Professional Certificate (GITSPC), and enroll.
If you don't qualify for financial assistance and must pay for this program yourself, Coursera charges $49 a month for access to its entire course catalog, including the six courses that make up the GITSPC. That means if you put only 10 hours a week into the courses, the 37 weeks won't cost more than $392. If you finish faster, you'll pay less, and you need pay only once a month at the $49 rate.
I think this is a fantastic offering and deal for those who find IT interesting enough to dig into and learn about, whether they get the training for free or have to pay the out-of-pocket costs. I'm hoping it will become a part of high school and community college curricula everywhere, because I think it's a basic and important enough skill set that anybody and everybody can get something worthwhile out of it.