Lessons from helping 10 million during the pandemic

2022 marks the third year of the pain of the COVID-19 pandemic. Though we’ve yet to see the long-term impact it will have on how we live, work, study and grow, I’ve never seen a time where technology has been as helpful to as many people as it has been over these last three years.

The same technology that has kept so many going will be key to the economic recovery, but we must also make sure no one is left behind.

In 2015, when I first started this role at Google, the EU released a report highlighting a digital skills gap that threatened to leave a million jobs unfilled. Seeing a unique challenge and opportunity for Google to help, we launched Grow With Google, which aims to help accelerate economic recovery through our technology, tools and training. Through Grow with Google, we’ve trained 88 million people around the world in the skills they need to build their career, launch or grow their own business.

With the onset of the pandemic, we sought to build on these efforts. The acceleration of technology was keeping businesses afloat and helping communities connect — but it also risked leaving some people behind.

So in June 2020 we set ourselves a new target, pledging to help 10 million people and businesses in Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) find jobs, digitize and grow by the end of 2021. This important milestone has now been reached, and surpassed.

We approached this challenge by:

Providing businesses with the tools they need to thrive

Research has found 80% of small businesses increased their use of digital tools during the pandemic. So we’ve launched more than 200 new features since March 2020.

For example, with Business Profiles, we made it easier for businesses to manage their presence directly on Google Search and the Google Maps app and connect with customers online. These tools have helped businesses and people adjust and thrive during the pandemic. In fact, boutique French retailer Indira de Paris now attributes 70% of their sales to digital, thanks to these features.

We have also launched new features on Search and Google Maps enabling restaurants to inform customers they now do delivery — or for local stores to say they offer curbside pick-up. People can now find this information on Search and Maps for more than six million restaurants and retailers in Europe. To help retailers to connect with more customers, we made it free for retailers to list their products on the Shopping tab throughout Europe, the Middle East and Africa. To help retailers stand out online, in over 10 EMEA markets, we launched tailored recommendations for every business with our new tool, Local Opportunity Finder.

Supporting people and businesses to learn new digital skills

To make the most of the digital opportunities available to them, people and businesses need the right skills. Across Europe, the Middle East and Africa, as part of our Grow with Google efforts, we focused on providing digital skills training.

We have worked alongside partners to launch initiatives aimed at supporting local businesses and communities to make the digital transition. With the German Retail Association (HDE) we launched the ZukunftHandel initiative, which has provided over 70,000 retailers with coaching and other support.

Long before the coronavirus, it was clear the jobs of the future would require a new set of digital skills. McKinsey now estimates that more than 25% of people may need to transition new jobs because of the pandemic. In response, we launched new Google Career Certificates to help people reskill for roles in high-growth areas such as IT support, project management, data analytics or UX design. People like Jelena in the UK have also benefited from the 100,000 scholarships we are providing in partnership with local governmental and non-governmental organizations. Jelena participated in a Project Management course from the Google Career Certificate program and is now a digital project coordinator for various charitable initiatives.

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