Google has announced a promise to offer free digital skills training to everyone residing within the United Kingdom in an effort to bring more skills to more people worldwide.
“No matter where you live, no matter where you’re from, no matter what your job is – you deserve access to all the information, education, and opportunity the web has to offer,” said Google CEO Sundar Pichai in a speech made in London.
Expected to launch next year, the plan will offer all individuals in the UK five free hours of training, including both face-to-face and online mentoring of basic web skills. In all, 100 locations will participate throughout the country and online. Centers have already opened in Leeds, Manchester, Newcastle, Birmingham, and Glasgow, with plans to launch centers in Cardiff and Port Talbot in the coming weeks.
The promise comes as an extension of Google’s Digital Garage which was launched last year, serving more than a quarter million people throughout the UK so far. The program was introduced in 2015 as an effort to help businesses introduce a presence online by offering skills and training to over 200,000 organizations across a two-year time span.
Using a pop-up shop model, Digital Garage focuses on a number of areas including online marketing and business development using social media, writes Darren Allen for Tech Radar.
“Today’s pledge from Google is very welcome in supporting that national goal. It will help more people to get the tools they need to contribute to society and enjoy the benefits of the internet,” said digital minister Matt Hancock.
It is estimated that due to a lack of digital skills, the UK economy is losing billions of pounds each year. In addition, MPs and businesses alike have continued to suggest that if the digital skills gap remains where it is, the country could fall behind the rest of the world. A warning from the top boss at Barclay came in July stating that the country’s economic growth and productivity were at risk because of the digital skills gap, reports Lynsey Barber for CityAM.
Pichai also noted a commitment to introducing a virtual reality program to millions of school children across the United Kingdom. In order to do so, schools and teachers must sign up to become a part of the Google Expeditions Program, after which an Expeditions team will visit the school and offer virtual reality trips within classrooms through their mission to “take your class on an immersive virtual journey that brings your lessons to life.”
Supporting current curriculum, the virtual reality content will allow children to visit a number of places that would be difficult to be able to see, such as distant planets, underwater areas, and the two poles of Earth, as well as other environments which would be impossible to view otherwise. Feedback from a number of teachers suggest that the program could improve the literacy and writing skills of students across the country, as well as increase excitement over the learning process.
Google has also hinted at a continuation of investments within the UK with plans to introduce additional measures later in the week, including the placement of a new London headquarters for the company, almost doubling its workforce by 2020 from 4,000 employees to almost 7,000. The new 650,000 square-foot building will be located in King’s Cross. The project is expected to come with a price tag of nearly £1 billion.
“We see big opportunities here. This is a big commitment from us – we have some of the best talent in the world in the UK and to be able to build great products from here sets us up well for the long term,” said Pichai.