Some of the biggest technology companies in the world, Google and Microsoft, are reinforcing their relationships with U.S. community colleges.
"Today, we're so excited to announce that all of our Google career certificates will be available for free, to every community college in the United States and to every career and technical high school in the United States," Lisa Gevelber, founder of Grow with Google, tells CNBC Make It. "One of the other things we actually announced today, which I think is super exciting, is that all of our certificates now have been recommended by the American Council on Education to be recognized as college credit for up to 12 credits, which is the equivalent of four college courses at the bachelor's degree level."
On Friday, Connecticut became the first state in the country to offer the full suite of Google Career Certificates across its state colleges and universities system.
Community colleges and technical high schools "play a critical role in workforce training: 44% of all U.S. undergraduates attend community colleges, 7.5 million high school students are enrolled in career and technical education programs," said Ruth Porat, Google's chief financial officer, at a press conference at Middlesex Community College in Middletown, Connecticut.
Porat was joined by a packed panel including U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona, Connecticut Senators Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy, Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont and Connecticut State Colleges and Universities President Terrence Cheng for the announcement.
"This is exactly what workforce development is all about," said Lamont. "We have employers that are looking to hire individuals with these digital skills, and our community college system responded quickly by entering into a partnership with Google to ensure our colleges are ready to start equipping students with these skills so they can enter these in-demand careers that pay over $60,000."
Starting in the spring of 2022, Connecticut will offer a for-credit course that will incorporate the Google IT Support Certification. The state will also offer non-credit opportunities for individuals to take Google's certificates.
"We're still determining some cost," explained Cheng. "But ultimately, if there is any cost, we're going to work … to figure out tuition support."
"The Workforce Development and Continuing Education departments will be offering the Google IT Support Certification statewide with a minimum of 150 hour online course. The cost and scheduling are being finalized at this time," reads the program's website.
Gevelber explains that Google does not make any revenue from their certificates but that the online learning platform Coursera, which hosts the courses, charges $39 per month and that partnering colleges can choose to cover instructor and institutional costs as they see fit. Google also provides individual scholarships.
It is also possible that community colleges may soon receive an influx of federal funds to further fuel these kinds of partnerships.
"I'm hopeful that in a few weeks, we'll be able to report some pretty good news to supplement these efforts," said Senator Murphy on Friday. "The Build Back Better Act, which we are on the verge of passing through Congress, will invest historic amounts of money in community college, workforce training and students [by] increasing the maximum Pell Grant, and importantly, dedicating $5 billion just to grow public-private partnerships with community colleges."
Senator Blumenthal mentioned the legislation would also mean "$20 billion for workforce development through both the Department of Education and Department of Labor."
Google is not the only major tech company to connect with community colleges. On Thursday, Microsoft announced a national campaign with U.S. community colleges to help train and recruit 250,000 workers for the cybersecurity sector.
"Community colleges are the single greatest potential asset the United States has in expanding the cybersecurity workforce," reads the company's announcement. "They are one of the nation's most remarkable and ubiquitous assets, and with some targeted assistance, they can move quickly to help address the cybersecurity workforce shortage."
Over the past several years, many tech companies have committed to hiring workers without four-year bachelor's degrees, including from community colleges.
Google alone has a consortium of 150 employers who have agreed to hire Google career certificate graduates.
"Our colleges and career pathways must be clear and connected to the workforce needs," said Cardona. "That takes innovation and it also takes intentional collaboration."