Google CEO Sundar Pichai: ‘Focus On Code Has Left a Potentially Bigger Opportunity Unexplored’

Everyone knows that Google is home to some of the smartest coders on the planet, who do everything from programming cars to drive themselves, to mapping the world to shrinking it with massive data centers and undersea fiber-optic cables. Along the way, they’ve also built a darn good search engine, too, becoming the gatekeeper for the bulk of the world’s information.

But in an op-ed on NBCnews.com, CEO Sundar Pichai said a focus on coding and computer science will not be enough to bridge the skills gap and insure the nation’s workforce thrives in the years ahead. He called for an expansion of ongoing technology training at all levels of employment—and said Google would help make it happen.

“The focus on code has left a potentially bigger opportunity largely unexplored,” he writes in the piece. “In the past, people were educated and learned job skills, and that was enough for a lifetime. Now, with technology changing rapidly and new job areas emerging and transforming constantly, that’s no longer the case. We need to focus on making lightweight, continuous education widely available. This is just as crucial to making sure that everyone can find opportunities in the future workplace.”

“We have a deep sense of responsibility to give back to our country and the people who make our success possible.”

It’s just the latest outreach to working America from the F.A.N.G.s of the Valley lately. In the wake of the GOP-led tax cut, this week Apple CEO Tim Cook trumpeted a “$350 billion contribution to the U.S. economy over the next five years,” including 20,000 new jobs and a $5 billion fund to invest in advanced U.S. manufacturing (“We have a deep sense of responsibility to give back to our country and the people who make our success possible,” Cook said with the announcement.)

Amazon, meanwhile, announced that it was looking at hot non-costal cities like Indianapolis, Columbus, Ohio, Nashville and Pittsburgh for its HQ2. Earlier this year, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg went on a highly-publicized listening tour to understand the lives of average Americans.

PR or not, Pichai’s essay certainly rings true and echoes what Chief Executive has been hearing from CEOs in nearly every industry and every region of the country lately: There’s a shortage of tech-savvy talent right now, at exactly the moment when most companies, from manufacturers to professional service firms, are struggling with the process of digital transformation to keep pace with rivals.

And as we all know, most of these jobs hardly require computer science skills—but they do require, at the very least, the ability to interface fluidly with computers, and even that is in short supply. He highlights a recent Brookings report that the number of jobs requiring more than just a bit of digital skill has grown from 40% of jobs in 2002 to 48% of jobs in 2016.

To help, he announced expansion of a Google program to train IT professionals, giving free access to the course and connecting graduates with potential employers, naming Bank of America, Walmart, Sprint and others and said Google has “invested $1 billion over five years to help find new approaches to connect people to opportunities at work and help small and medium businesses everywhere grow in the digital economy.”

It’s certainly a nice gesture, to be sure. But maybe they could just let us know how to game that algorithm a bit?

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Dan Bigman
Dan Bigman is Editor and Chief Content Officer of Chief Executive Group, publishers of Chief Executive, Corporate Board Member, ChiefExecutive.net and Boardmember.com. Previously he was Managing Editor at Forbes and the founding business editor of NYTimes.com.

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