Google is pledging $50 million over the next two years to prepare workers for a 21st century job market that's being dramatically reshaped by powerful forces, including Google itself.
The Internet giant's philanthropic arm says it will fund innovative nonprofits using technology to train workers in new skills, connect job seekers with open positions and provide support for low-wage service workers. Nonprofits receiving grants from Google.org will also receive volunteer help from Google employees.
The commitment puts economic opportunity at the top of Google's philanthropic agenda, along with education and inclusion.
Google.org has given away millions to racial justice organizations. In March, it made a $50 million commitment to nonprofits building technology to narrow the education gap around the globe.
The $100 million in commitments to education and economic opportunity are the largest giving initiatives to date from Google.org, Jacquelline Fuller, president of Google.org, told USA TODAY.
The economic opportunity grants are designed "to make sure technology and training are available for everyone and can help narrow gaps and inequities," she said.
This new wave of philanthropy comes with the swift rise of artificial intelligence and robotics that threatens jobs on a scale much greater than previous technical advances. It also comes as service workers for tech giants like Google have formed a growing underclass in Silicon Valley.
Economic gains that have bypassed large swaths of the U.S. population have seeded economic anxiety, giving rise to the political populism behind the election of President Trump.
More big shifts are coming as the labor force shrinks, globalization spreads and automation increases. Google.org plans to invest $2 million into research on the future of work to better understand how technology can help workers prepare for new jobs, opportunities and industries, Fuller said.
"We have looked at where we can make a uniquely Google contribution to the space, recognizing these are huge forces and economic changes at work," said Fuller.
Google.org has already granted $5 million to four organizations.
Funding better training
"We know right now there are existing jobs going unfilled simply because there's a mismatch," Fuller said.
Social Finance is receiving $750,000 to help prepare low-income and minority students for colleges and careers through the Pay for Success program which lets local, state and federal governments tap private investments for nonprofit programs. If a project measurably improves the lives of participants, the government repays investors with a modest return.
The Google grant will help support more projects that prepare underserved youth for the workforce, said Tracy Palandjian, CEO and co-founder of Social Finance. "The Google.org work initiative grant will catalyze the development of the first Pay for Success projects focused on career and technical education, providing young people access to the skills they need to thrive in today's global economy," she said.
Connecting job seekers with jobs
The investments aim to "provide training that's really delivering the skill set that actually lead to today's jobs and tomorrow's jobs," Fuller said.
Code for America is getting a grant for $1.5 million to work with workforce development agencies on technology that connects job seekers with training, career counseling and job opportunities, rather than having them make multiple trips to government career centers.
"By using the practices and principles of consumer technology, Code for America plans to redesign how government delivers services that help people with barriers to employment find and keep work," said Efrem Bycer, Code for America's director of economic development.
Google.org is also giving one million euros to Bayes Impact, a French organization that crunches data from the government to provide personalized job recommendations and job-hunting tips. Google data engineers will help Bayes Impact build a feature that offers guidance on the kinds of skills job seekers should develop for specific positions or industries.
Proving resources for service workers
Among the fastest-growing jobs in the U.S. in coming years are low-wage and service jobs such as home health aides and housecleaners, yet this sector has not typically benefited from technological advances, Fuller said.
The National Domestic Workers Alliance is using technology to improve working conditions for domestic workers such as housecleaners and nannies.
The flagship product of its innovation hub Fair Care Labs is Alia, which helps domestic workers access benefits such as sick leave and disability insurance by collecting small regular contributions from employers to make benefits available and affordable. The $1.5 million Google.org grant, and an assist from Google employees, will help advance existing products and develop new ones and make sure they are available in more languages.
"I am really hopeful, optimistic and excited to get that kind of talent and skill working on issues that have long been ignored in our economy," said Palak Shah, founding director at Fair Care Labs.