Upskilling the millions: 5 minutes with Carl Tanner, Global Head of Learning Partnerships for Google

Enterprise IT teams have had a lot to focus on over the last few years. The pressures of the expanding office, combined with innovative enterprise technology, pushed companies to invest in new technologies to stay competitive. This resulted in a wide-spread acceleration of enterprise transformation plans, with McKinsey finding that enterprises have accelerated their digitisation by three to four years since 2020. Cloud adoption is one of the clearest examples of this. According to Gartner, 85% of enterprises will adopt a cloud first principle by 2025, and 90% of IT leaders want to grow their cloud environments over the next several years.

In October last year, Google committed to narrowing the IT skills shortage by equipping more than 40 million people with Google Cloud skills. We sat down with Google’s Global Head of Learning Partnerships to hear about the company’s ambitious target, as well as Carl’s own passion for learning and development…

Why do you believe that learning and development is important for modern businesses?

“I have always worked in Learning and Development for my whole career and I have long been passionate about the fact that our work has a huge impact on the success of a business.

Personally, I’ve seen the value that high quality training and certifications can bring to our customers, but it also has a demonstrable impact on sales and revenue, across both hardware and software. Internal causation studies have demonstrated to us that an organisation with at least 30 trained individuals will spend 43% more on technologies than customers below that benchmark.

At its simplest, the more a customer knows, the more technologies it can invest in, buy, and manage effectively to ensure ROI.”

How do you convince customers to invest in training within their own organisations?

“We all know that when organisations embrace digital transformation, they gain a real competitive advantage and often see their business scale. But digital transformation is far more than just the technologies that enable it. Change on this level is powered by people, and businesses are really waking up to that.

Every day, more businesses, regardless of industry, are feeling the impact of a growing IT skills gap. Suddenly, they need employees with the skills required to implement and maintain large-scale cloud deployments, particularly across AI and machine learning, data analytics, application development, security, and cloud architecture. Although digital transformation is an opportunity for growth, a lack of IT talent can bring things to a standstill.

As the bar for customer experience and operational delivery is pushed higher by innovative competition, and as technologies open a world of possibility, investing in this training is more important than ever at the level of the organisation and its vendors. Most businesses are coming to understand that.”

Tell us more about Google’s goal. How did you set the target, and how will you meet it?

“The target of 40 million hasn’t come from thin air: it’s the predicted shortage of IT professionals by 2030.

To meet this challenge, we have built a strategy of meeting learners at all levels, in all places, and at all stages of their career.

When facing a skills gap as wide as that of the IT industry, it is of course essential to invest in the leaders of tomorrow. Enterprise IT, fast paced, solutions-focused and promising as it is, is the perfect career path to inspire the next generation and we are passionate about supporting these prospective IT professionals’ studies with Google Chromebooks and applications, workshops and apprenticeships.

But our core belief at Google Learning is that our training needs to reach every learner, exactly where they are. In the current battle for IT talent, it is fundamental that organisations invest in skilling their existing staff as it is to bring new minds into the industry. The most important strategy we have is in partnering with the best educational organisations so that, alongside supporting our customers as they reskill their teams, Google can empower employees to upskill themselves.”

Is the mission focused more on skills-based learning, or certifications?

“Whether you are gaining skills or certifications, both carry real value for today’s businesses. However, while our target is to train 40 million learners, our true goal is to empower these individuals to gain certifications.

In fact, being able to quantify skills is a key step for many on the road to certification training.  For some, justifying this level of investment to employers and the C-Suite can be a real challenge. Google Cloud Skills Boost is our destination for online learning, skills development, and certifications, providing global, on-demand access to over 700 hands-on labs, role-based courses, skill badges, and certification resources. Since the launch of skills badges 9 months ago, we have already seen a massive adoption. Many learners see these as a prerequisite to certifications, with over 1 million already achieved.

Alongside our direct learning labs and platform, Google takes pride in its partnerships with customers and learning platforms such as Coursera and Simply Learn, which bring our courses and training to a significantly larger and more varied audience.”

It must be exciting to be part of this industry wide push.

“It definitely is. Google is not alone in its commitment to train the next generation and narrow the skills gap, and for good reason. The IT industry has flourished over the last few decades, demonstrating the value of innovation, adaptability, and striving for better.

At the heart of every new technology is a team, or multiple teams, of brilliant minds dedicated to solving problems on both local and global levels. IT vendors appreciate and understand this, and it is a pleasure to play my role in making this possible for businesses everywhere.”

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