BY ALEJANDRA O’CONNELL-DOMENECH | Now New Yorkers have a chance to grow their tech skills thanks to free help from Google.
The Grow with Google Center opened April 8, on the ground floor of Google’s Chelsea headquarters building, at W. 16th St. and Eighth Ave.
“Technology is changing the way that all businesses operate, and the skills people need to work in these businesses are changing, too,” said Congressmember Jerrold Nadler, who spoke at the center’s opening ceremony on April 8. “But that doesn’t mean that, if you didn’t get a computer science degree in college, that you should be disqualified from getting a job in this economy.”
The Grow with Google Center is part of the company’s national effort to bring digital skills to everyone — but especially those most in need of basic computer literacy and tech crash courses. Small business owners without an online presence, students wanting to learn how to make a presentation and those who have been out of the workforce for years are examples of the kind of people the center is designed to help.
Google was able to find participants for the center’s first hourlong class through local organizations the company already has partnerships with, such as Hudson Guild and Goodwill. The Grow with Google Center was made possible with the help of 19 other organizations.
But one does not have to be part of one of the 19 organizations in partnership with the Grow with Google Center to participate. Anyone interested can walk into the Chelsea office and sign up for a course or register for a class online.
Kimbery Kindle, 47, from Chelsea, participated in the center’s first-ever class immediately after the opening remarks.
“I’m not really computer savvy, so I wanted to come to the computer classes to get more help,” she said. “I’m a slow learner, so the class was really at my pace.”
The class was about how to build a résumé using Google templates. Kindle is trying to re-enter the workforce after years of being “a full-time mother,” so the résumé course was a logical first step.
According to instructor Aisha Taylor-Issah, all of the courses have a Google focus. The classes are meant to enhance people’s knowledge of what can be done with Google, and show that it’s more than just an Internet search browser.
“I have Gmail on my Smartphone, but I never really used it much,” said John Breen, 28, another participant in the center’s first course. “But seeing that it’s so useful,” he said, “I could definitely use it more.”
Grow with Google Centers, which are all temporary, have popped up in cities around the country since 2017 but have never stayed open for longer than a few weeks. Chelsea’s Grow with Google Center will be the longest-lived center yet and is scheduled to stay open for five months.
Google representatives said they are still determining what to do with the space once the five months are up. Google has said the center is a sort of trial program, however.
Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer spoke briefly at the center’s April 8 opening ceremony.
“At this wonderful center, here’s an example of how people can use data to improve our neighborhoods,” enthused Brewer, who has always been a big advocate of tech.
Carley Graham Garcia, Google’s head of external affairs, said the point of the center was less for people to connect with the brand and more for Google to connect with the community.