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Google to donate $1 billion to help Americans get job

Google is ready to donate $1 billion over the next five years in nonprofit organizations helping people adjust to the changing nature of work, the largest philanthropic pledge to date from the Internet giant

Google will make grants in its three core areas: education, economic opportunity, and inclusion. Already in the last few months, it has handed out $100 million of the $1 billion to nonprofits, according to Pichai.

The largest single grant — $10 million, the largest Google’s ever made — is going to Goodwill, which is creating the Goodwill Digital Career Accelerator. Over the next three years Goodwill, a major player in workforce development, aims to provide 1 million people with access to digital skills and career opportunities. Pichai says 1,000 Google employees will be available for career coaching.

In all, Google employees will donate 1 million volunteer hours to assist organizations like Goodwill trying to close the gap between the education and skills of the American workforce and the new demands of the 21st-century workplace, Pichai said.

The announcements, which drew praise from state and local politicians including Pennsylvania governor Tom Wolf, come as Google scrambles to respond to revelations that accounts linked to the Russian government used its advertising system to interfere with the presidential election.

Google is embroiled in a growing number of other controversies, from a Labor Department investigation and a lawsuit by former employees alleging systemic pay discrimination, to the proliferation of misinformation in search results and extremist content on YouTube. As the controversies have multiplied, so too have called for Washington to regulate Google because of its massive scale and global reach.

“This isn’t the first time we’ve seen massive, market-creating and labor market-disrupting companies try to address growing public pressure and possible regulatory limits in this way. But it often has been individual corporate titans who’ve gotten into philanthropy — Andrew Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller — as a way to rehabilitate their own images, tarnished by anxiety about the size of their companies and treatment of workers,” said Margaret O’Mara, a history professor at the University of Washington.

“What’s interesting here is what this signals about how Google’s future business ambitions. It is betting that its next era will be one not of search and apps but of devices and labor market interventions.”

Google’s not alone fending off critics. A recent headline in tech news outlet TechCrunch read: “Dear Silicon Valley: America’s fallen out of love with you.”

The tech industry, once a shiny symbol of American innovation and pride, has found itself on the defensive after the election of Donald Trump, which telegraphed the deepening disillusionment of everyday Americans who have watched the gains of the economic recovery pass them by.

While whole communities in the nation’s heartland have fallen into economic decline, the tech industry, clustered in vibrant coastal hubs like San Francisco and New York, has grown wealthy off new developments that are disrupting how Americans live and work.

The pace of that innovation is quickening. For years tech companies could not deliver on promises of hyper-intelligent machines capable of performing human tasks. Now the technology is catching up to the aspirations.

In recent years, Google and other companies have made long strides, from self-driving cars that whisk you to your destination to digital assistants who answer your questions. This new wave of automation that aids consumers in their everyday lives has a dark side: It’s killing off traditional jobs and stranding workers, still struggling after the recession, who are unprepared for the shift.

Google, says O’Mara, will have “undeniably disruptive impacts on the jobs people do and the skills they need for them.”

In the 1960s when computer-aided automation worried the nation, presidential and congressional commissions and government agencies tackled the challenge.

“Now it’s the private sector. And even though $1 billion sounds like a lot, it is a small number compared to government education programs or, for that matter, the balance sheets of large tech companies,” O’Mara said.

EXCERPTS: US TODAY

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