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Webinar Highlights Efforts to Build Digital Workforce Skills at the Local Level

Tue, December 03, 2019

A digitally skilled workforce is essential for the economic development of our nation’s communities. The BroadbandUSA November 20, 2019 webinar, “Building Digital Workforce Skills at the Local Level,” showcased initiatives in Seattle, Omaha and rural Mississippi that help individuals develop technology skills, such as basic digital literacy, STEM and coding, needed for a digital economy.

David Keyes, Digital Equity Program Manager for Seattle Information Technology, described how Seattle partners with local community colleges, nonprofits and employers to provide training and apprenticeships for different job pathways. The city found the need to provide digital skills training even for non-technology related jobs such as diesel mechanic. Seattle officials worked with the Technology & Social Change Group (TASCHA) at the University of Washington to compare digital skills frameworks and curricula.

Stacey Wedlake, Research Analyst and Coordinator at TASCHA, spoke about the report, “Digital skill sets for diverse users.” These skill sets range from basic skills such as creating passwords and managing email security and privacy settings to more sophisticated skills that involve designing and writing code for applications. Because of the wide range of needed skills, Stacey recommended that policymakers work with workforce training programs to develop comprehensive and holistic strategies for building digital skills.

Shonna Dorsey, a senior business systems consultant with Mutual of Omaha and Commissioner with the State of Nebraska IT Commission, discussed ways that companies can expand the digital workforce pipeline. Nebraska is expecting a shortage of 10,000 technology workers by 2025. Shonna spoke about raising awareness of technology careers through technology fairs and mentorships. She also advised companies to explore new talent pipelines through internships and apprenticeships and opening up hiring to candidates who may lack a bachelor’s degree. Mutual of Omaha also partners with a local community college to provide code school training for employees seeking to make a career change.

Kagan Coughlin, Co-founder and Trustee of Base Camp Coding Academy, also discussed the importance of investing in local talent. Base Camp, a non-profit based in Water Valley, Miss, provides an innovative, one-year coding curriculum to disadvantaged youth from local high schools at no charge that successfully lead to jobs or further education paths for program graduates. Base Camp is working with the Northwest Mississippi Community College to build Mississippi’s first Rural Education and Innovation Hub with funding and contributions from local, state and federal government and corporate partners.

All of the speakers emphasized the importance of building partnerships between governments, businesses, nonprofits, community colleges and other educational institutions to help residents attain the digital skills required by employers.

Listen to the webinar or view the presentation and transcript here.BroadbandUSA hosts monthly webinars on broadband access, utilization and digital inclusion. Follow us on Twitter @NTIAgov to learn more and receive updates on NTIA and BroadbandUSA’s work.