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Workforce Development Deep Dive

Monthly DELN Meeting Shares Successes, Pinch Points

Today's broadband leaders have an opportunity to look forward and share their experiences in the digital equity field with other leaders from across the country.  

Local leadership is a key part of the mission and strategy of NTIA. The Digital Equity Act Programs elevates the voice of under-represented populations by providing a life-changing service pillar. Following the local leadership, we utilize on-the-ground stakeholders to make decisions about Internet-access needs and priorities in order to close the achievement gap.

The Digital Equity Leaders Network (DELN), organized by NTIA’s Office of Internet Connectivity and Growth, is a monthly conversation among leaders and practitioners from all states, territories, and localities across the United States. The group is made up of community leaders, government agency executives, and staff members whose work focuses on digital literacy and workforce development initiatives in communities across the nation. 

At our October Workforce Development series of DELN meetings, which took place on October 13th and 27th, we discussed the industry's challenging issues and shared promising solutions for best practices.

Building Data Through Informal Surveys and Reporting

Throughout the country, many libraries use surveys created by the Public Library Association’s (PLA) Project Outcome. They have had a lot of success helping seniors obtain employment after attending their program. For instance, Aneta Lee, FUSE Executive Fellow on Digital Equity in Birmingham, Alabama, utilized the PLA’s NorthStar Digital Literacy Tool to define the basic skills needed to use a computer and the internet in daily life, employment, and higher education.

Amanda Bergson-Shilcock, a DELN member and Senior Fellow at the National Skills Coalition, presented "Digital Skills and the Workforce" to remind DELN members that "self-reporting surveys offer an assessment and build data points to detect their digital literacy skills."  

Many participants noted that their localities collect data informally.

Marian Christmon, Manager of Digital Inclusion Initiatives at Nashville Public Library (NPL), who works with the National Council on Aging’s Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP) and helps older adults return to work, shared that NPL does not formally track patron internet usage and familiarity but they do collect self-reported data. 

Innovation Through Infrastructure 

Meghan McDermott, Director for Digital Inclusion and Partnerships for the City of New York, shared Kingsborough Community College is piloting a new fiber certification program for non-traditional and returning students while the City’s public libraries are exploring how newly designed digital navigator roles can complement and expand their existing support programs, including workforce readiness. Moreover, the non-profit Consortium for Worker Education is launching a digital literacies initiative serving workers across its local upskilling centers.

Building a Workforce Through HR

Eric Forsch, NTIA’s Federal Program Officer for Idaho and Oregon, asked the group, “How can employers be flexible when looking for employees?” Workforce scarcity helps human resources (HR) systems be creative and flexible to hire an individual with the skills that can meet the needs of the job.

Digital Skills and Workforce Development

The conversation continued in the second DELN meeting on workforce development, which took place on October 27th. Amanda Bergson-Shilcock returned from the National Digital Skills Coalition to discuss how COVID-19 highlighted the need for digital skills, underscoring that aside from industry-specific digital skills, many people are limited in their foundational digital skills, which are increasingly required in all workplaces. 

Digital Skills and Entrepreneurship 

Reymon LaChaux, Digital Equity Manager at the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community for the City and County of San Francisco, presented on Digital Skills and Entrepreneurship, highlighting the Civic Bridge Program model that is employed by cities across the country, as well as the Tech SF Apprenticeship Program sponsored by San Francisco’s Office of Economic Development.

Do you have a question about digital equity? Want to share what is working in your community? DELN hosts monthly conversations among leaders and practitioners from all states, territories, and localities. For more information, please visit BroadbandUSA’s page on Digital Inclusion here.