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Google, IBM, Meta join initiative to offer digital skills training

Milken Center for Advancing the American Dream President Kerry Murphy Healey joins Yahoo Finance Live to discuss launching the American Dream Academy with Coursera to offer digital skills certificates through companies like Google, IBM, and Meta.

Video Transcript

JOE BIDEN: We're also going to cut costs to keep the economy going strong and giving workers a fair shot, provide more training and apprenticeships, hire them based on skills, not just their degrees.

AKIKO FUJITA: Well, that was President Biden speaking at the State of the Union last week, calling for more training for workers to put them on a path to continuing education. Well, there's a new partnership today that is helping make some of that vision a reality. Nonprofit group Milken Center for Advancing the American Dream and online learning platform Coursera launching a new initiative today to provide free skills training for 200,000 Americans.

Let's bring in Kerry Murphy Healey, the Milken Center for Advancing the American Dream president. Kerry, it's great to talk to you today. We're talking about skills training. The value here is $100 million roughly. What kind of skills are we talking about?

KERRY MURPHY HEALEY: Well, we're talking about skills that are going to get people the most in-demand jobs in America today. We're going to be talking about skills relating to cybersecurity, user experience, IT, all of the things that employers say they're going to be needing. And 90% of our employers right now in the US are saying that they've accelerated their plans toward digitizing their workplace. And so these skills are critically important, both for people who are currently in the workforce and people who are going to be joining the workforce, either out of college or straight from high school.

JARED BLIKRE: And $200,000 is quite a large number. It's very generous, but we know there are quite a few more-- quite a large number of people looking for work and looking to reskill themselves right now also facing the prospect of the alternative college. Tuition costs are up. We had this huge CPI print today. I'm just wondering, is there an idea perhaps to scale this a little bit more to further the reach of this program?

KERRY MURPHY HEALEY: Jared, I hope this is only the beginning. But this is actually the largest program of its kind that has ever been launched. And you're right about the scale of the problem. We have 30 million people today in America who don't have college degrees, but who have the skills necessary to participate in the new economy. And we've heard from McKinsey, for example, that 4.9 million low wage workers today are going to need to upskill in order to keep their jobs and move into better paying jobs.

And so this is critically important. 200,000 sounds like a lot to us, and it is a lot in the scale that's been-- what's-- in terms of what's been available so far. But literally, millions and millions of people are going to need to be participating in these short-term upskilling programs that are going to allow them to participate in the jobs of the future.

AKIKO FUJITA: What's the time frame for the program right now? We have spoken to Coursera in the past about some of the programs they offer through partnerships with companies like Google. Software engineers, for example, huge demand there-- doesn't necessarily require a college degree, but there is a certification process. What's the timeline you're working with?

KERRY MURPHY HEALEY: So as of today, people can go online to the americandreamacademy.org and sign up. There's no barrier to participation. And these certificates are coming from IBM and Google, which is one of our partners, Meta, and others.

And so there's a range of certificates. People can look and see what are these new skills of the future that appeal to them. And they're paired also with employability skills. These are skills that are going to be durable. They're going to be useful not only in their next job, but in all their jobs moving forward, things like critical thinking and communications. And so together, these skills, we believe, will allow people to move directly into higher paying positions.

JARED BLIKRE: And can you talk about some of the specific skills that we're talking about here? And also, I note that you are former lieutenant governor of Massachusetts. And this reminds me of a program from MIT. It's been a-- they've had most of their course materials, I believe, online for years. I'm just wondering, what are some of the institutions that you're working with? And do you have any plans to work with some others in the United States?

KERRY MURPHY HEALEY: Yes, I mean, I think it's a very interesting moment in America right now because there's a seismic shift from simply just looking at online education as a way of delivering a two-year or a four-year degree to really delivering something different, delivering a skill specifically. And you also see at the same time, employers saying maybe I don't need a full college degree for this particular job.

For years and years, literally millions of people had been locked out of good paying jobs because they haven't been able to prove that they had a college degree. And so people have been going into debt. They've racked up $1.7 trillion worth of student debt over the course of the last few years, trying to get these college degrees that are supposed to be the door that opens to opportunity.

Now we're seeing a movement and in Coursera and elsewhere to create these short-term certificates that are very laser focused on digital skills, which are constantly evolving. They're always going to be new skills. We can't say it's always going to be cyber security, it's always going to be IT of some kind, but we don't know exactly what kind. But these certificates are going to take the place, in some cases, of traditional college educations.

One of the things that we have is we have a partnership with Western Governors University, which is a skills-based university, to actually give college credit and guaranteed admission to those who also finish the certificate. So in a way, it's a way of creating multiple pathways for yourself forward. You can either get a skill and go right into the workforce, or you can actually use this as a leg up toward a traditional college education.

AKIKO FUJITA: Kerry, on that earlier point you just made, we've heard this administration talk a lot about the need for employers to be much more open to those who don't necessarily have a four-year college degree. And we're talking at a time where so many companies have talked about a shortage in labor. To what extent do you think this kind of skills training program can help narrow that divide?

KERRY MURPHY HEALEY: It's critically important. And you look at-- there's some 875,000 empty jobs right now in America, but there's a mismatch between those jobs and the skills that people have. And so for those who are out there thinking about how can I get back into the job market, many people have been dispirited, you know, by their working conditions during COVID. And they've actually pulled themselves out of the job market.

We have the great resignation. So we need a pathway for people back in, but back in not to the kind of jobs that they used to have, but literally toward the jobs that are going to be able to provide a good income for themselves and their family and some sort of sustainable employment in the jobs of the future.

JARED BLIKRE: Sustainable and unemployment-- sustainable employment, that's exactly what we're hoping for here. Thank you for joining us here. Kerry Murphy Healey, Milken Center for Advancing the American Dream president.