Google ignites skills learning in Singapore

Google Singapore’s Ben King explains to HRM Asia the company’s role in the Skills Ignition SG programme, and how it is helping to reshape L&D needs.
By: | August 17, 2020

“Learning will no longer be just about content and knowledge. It is also about collaboration, experience and application.” – Ben King, Country Director, Google Singapore

In collaboration with Singapore’s Economic Development Board (EDB), Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) and the SkillsFuture SG programme, Google has launched the Skills Ignition SG, a nine-month place and train programme for up to 600 applicants.

The programme will provide job opportunities for Singaporeans in Google, as well as its ecosystem of hirer comprising SMEs and startups. Ben King, Country Director, Google Singapore, tells HRM Asia why initiatives like Skills Ignition SG will be key as organisations continue to redefine their L&D strategies in a new world of work.

Remote working remains the de facto mode for many companies, and is likely to be for some time. What are some of the key skills that participants to the Skills Ignition SG programme can expect to pick up to prepare them for this new world of work?

Google’s mission for Singapore is to empower Singaporeans today, for tomorrow, through skills training and by boosting productivity. We are humbled to be the first tech company to partner the government in offering meaningful skills upgrading opportunities at such a scale across the ecosystem.

Amid this pandemic, we have a responsibility to protect jobs and help Singaporeans navigate this difficult labour market, so we have prioritised creating training opportunities and hands-on work experience for Singaporeans through Skills Ignition SG. 

This pandemic has only accelerated our shift towards a world that is more digital. Digital marketing and cloud technology are skill sets now highly in demand, and this demand will continue to increase in the long run. We hope that Skills Ignition SG will bridge the gap and help increase the pool of local talent in the broader tech ecosystem. 

Based on Google’s tried and tested curricula, Skills Ignition SG offers programmes focused on these two areas. The curriculum is in-depth and has proven successful in many markets; the courses will come with professional certifications that are endorsed by Google and recognised by leading global industry bodies.

COVID-19 has also amplified the importance of being agile in learning and adapting to changes. What is Google doing to improve the learning agility of their people, and what advice do you have for companies, particularly in Asia-Pacific?

Learning at Google spans mandatory course tracks that are largely tied to function, funding for self-driven learning, and the promotion of employee-to-employee sharing.

In order to encourage our employees to keep learning, Google has an education reimbursement programme that offers eligible employees of all levels US$12,000 annually to participate in personal or business-critical courses to directly improve a skill outside of what Google offers (for example, learning a new language and attending personal development courses). 

On sharing, 80% of all tracked training is run through an employee-to-employee network called “g2g” (Googler-to-Googler). This volunteer teaching network dedicates a portion of their time to helping their peers learn and grow; Google employees can participate in a variety of ways, from teaching courses, providing 1:1 mentoring, to designing learning materials.

Many of the popular classes focus on general professional skills, like negotiation and leadership, and role-related skills, like sales training and Python coding. It has also helped upskill our employees in new areas.

For example, as mobile computing on smartphones exploded, thousands of Googlers went through an Android training bootcamp run by the very Googlers who worked on Android.

Overarching this, to help make peer-to-peer learning a part of our culture, we have embarked on the following efforts that can serve as a guide for other companies:

  • Strong leadership sponsorship: Support from the top is critical. Employees need to hear and know leaders believe that learning is an important part of work.
  • Connection to the organisation’s core values: It is easy to talk about employee development, but it is difficult to fake if your core values do not reflect this as being core. If your organisation is serious about fostering a learning culture, tie it into your organisational mission or core values. This enables the sharing of responsibility and ownership for a learning culture with employees, and everyone can see how it connects to the organisation’s value system.
  • Start early: Making it clear and explicit from day one that learning is an expected part of everyone’s job. This can be incorporated into new hire orientation or managers may bring it up with new team members. 

How would you define the future of work, and how do you think this will continue to shape L&D for organisations in Asia-Pacific?

As we look to the future, it is clear that many students and future workers will be dealing with technology that has not been invented yet, or solving problems that have not been identified yet. To be successful, they are going to need to be constantly learning and acquiring new skills.

Businesses in the region are increasingly going digital, and will need a proactive workplace strategy to help its workforce who require upskilling or reskilling in response to the continuous disruption of the modern workforce.

Learning will no longer be just about content and knowledge. It is also about collaboration, experience and application. Beyond formal training, we facilitate learning with others as well as practical on-the-job experiences to bring these principles to life. When we practise what we have learned, retention and ownership of the content increases significantly. 

This is why our online curriculum for Skills Ignition SG will include a mix of online instructor-led training, self-paced online study, online group work, and individual projects.

At the same time, there is a nine-month place and train programme for up to 600 applicants where participants will do three months of online vocational training before moving on to six months of hands-on work experience with a wide range of companies such as Google, Castlery, FNZ, Sephora or media agencies like Dentsu Aegis Network, Publicis Groupe and Omnicom Media Group.

We will continue to open up more opportunities and welcome companies to join us in offering job placements to jobseekers. They can contact us at [email protected]

Applications for Skills Ignition SG close on Friday, August 21.