What Will It Take to Close the Adult Digital Literacy Gap?

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As new technology continues to emerge and evolve, the need for digital literacy in the American workforce becomes increasingly important. While employers’ expectations for technology proficiency were once reserved for professionals trained in information technology, many industries now require prospective employees to demonstrate basic computer skills, such as word processing, spreadsheets, and effective web search, just to get in the door.

While this shift has created new opportunities for hundreds of thousands of workers, those who lack sufficient training and experience in these areas are overlooked. Almost eight in ten middle-skill jobs, which are defined as those that require less than a college degree but more than a high school degree, now require basic digital literacy skills. These jobs represent 39% of the overall U.S. job market, and can often serve as a vehicle for upward economic mobility.

Yet, hundreds of thousands of Americans lack the necessary skills to land these digitally-intensive jobs, which on average, pay 18% more than those that don’t require digital fluency, according to a recent report published by Burning Glass Technologies.

To address the growing digital literacy gap in the workplace, Capital One’s Future Edge Initiative has pledged $150 million over the next five years to community and educational organizations that promote digital skills. The program has attracted technology training partners General Assembly and Grovo, whose digital training programs will be used to address the digital divide. General Assembly provides intensive technical training courses at its over a dozen campuses worldwide. Online microlearning specialist Grovo partners with organizations in 190 companies, including schools, non-profits, and Fortune 500 companies to create and deliver short video modules for professional and technical training.

On a snowy Thursday morning in New York City, professionals from participating organizations gathered at the General Assembly headquarters to celebrate the announcement of this exciting partnership. Representatives from all collaborating partners, as well as local and federal government agencies, shared in the excitement as ten Future Edge Fellows were recognized for their acceptance into the program.

Kristen Titus, the founding director of New York City’s Tech Talent Pipeline represented the Mayor’s office and its $10 million dollar commitment to support growth in the technology sector. The former Executive Director of Girls Who Code, Titus highlighted the important role that programs such as Future Edge play in closing the gap for women and minorities in technology.

Among the fellows was Monet Wilson, of Oakland, CA, who will be enrolling in the web development track of the program. Wilson said that she loves the program so far because, “everyone is so welcoming and accepting, no matter what walk of life you come from.” Joining Monet will be Nurichsan Pratama, Isatu Conteh, Anthony Colarusso, Anya Melnyk, Nesta Parchment, Justin McFarlane-Beau, Lynnesha Muldrow, Sarita Gardner, and Anna-Marie Panlilio. The fellows are all early- to mid-career individuals from San Francisco, Washington DC, and New York City.

Over the next 16 weeks, these fellows will engage in an intensive training program that will prepare them for job placement in web development or user experience design. Upon completion of the program, the fellows will be guided through job placement process and receive ongoing mentorship during their first year of employment.

Daymond John, founder and CEO of FUBU and co-host of ABC’s Shark Tank spoke to the audience on the role that different types of emerging literacies have played in his career as a notable entrepreneur and investor. “In my grandparents’ generation, you had to learn a trade,” John explained. “In my parents’ generation, financial literacy became essential.”

He further explained how we now live in an era in which it is not uncommon to “reinvent yourself” every few years to stay ahead of the learning curve with emerging tools and technologies. The story of John’s path from his humble Queens roots to achieving notable success in business illustrated the event’s theme: If you give people the right tools and motivation, they can grow to achieve their full potential.

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