Google’s latest hiring tactic is training other companies’ employees

And free training.
And free training.
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Google is trying a new hiring tactic: pay to train other companies’ employees. The tech giant announced on Jan. 16 that it had turned its internal IT training program into an online course and was offering scholarships for up to 10,000 Americans. While Google plans to hire from this pool of students, most of the course’s graduates will likely go to off to other companies. That could prove to be model for Silicon Valley, and every company struggling to find qualified candidates.

Paying to train employees who may never work at your company is becoming a new recruiting tool, says a spokesperson from Coursera, the online learning website that will host Google’s IT training program. Google is the first to offer scholarships through Coursera’s platform, but more companies will offer similar arrangements this year. Many face a Catch 22 when hiring for technology jobs. Firms want people with demonstrated skills, but it’s hard for potential candidates to develop that expertise except on the job. Vocational and college education can seem expensive and outdated, given the pace of technological change.

Google’s subsidized certificate program, and another in entrepreneurship to be released by a different company on Coursera later this year, will give companies an easy way to tap a new “non-traditional” applicant pool (high school education or less, without formal training), and hire the best of those who take their courses. Coursera says the standard cost for the certificate program would be about $400 to $600 per person, but companies investing in the broader workforce may still work out to be a good deal. Google, which is famous for running experiments on how to optimize its workforce, will likely use this program to test how well the strategy delivers in terms of new hires and publicity.

Google’s curriculum includes labs, “soft skills” guidance, interactive evaluations, and 64 hours of video lessons developed by Google. The company says the certificate program will teach students the fundamentals of IT support such as troubleshooting, customer service, networking, operating systems, system administration, automation, and security.  The program allows people who complete it to share their information with potential employers. Cousersa estimates that students who spend 8 to 10 hours per week on the courses will complete the certificate in about eight months.

Normal subscription fees to access Coursera courses are $49 per month. Google will provide full financial assistance for 10,000 qualified applicants who either apply by February 20th or are selected by non-profit partners offering in-person support.

The Google IT Support Professional Certificate is not specific to Google’s technology. Natalie Van Kleef Conley, who led Google’s internal IT hiring, says anyone without an IT education should be able to complete the course, and that it will prepare him or her for any company’s entry level IT job. “It was often challenging to find qualified candidates,” she writes on the company’s blog. ”But I knew that candidates didn’t need traditional four-year college degrees to be qualified—and also found that IT was very teachable.”