In highlighting the boons of the Digital Equity Act, Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., teased a new bill that would further support digital upskilling across the country. The current legislation bridges gaps for low-income workers, rural talent and people with disabilities.
At the National Skills Coalition summit in Washington, D.C. last week, panelists explained how continued funding for learning and development in their states would brighten the future of work.
Constance Green, Virginia Community Colleges System
Green, the WIOA Adult & Dislocated Worker Programs state coordinator, spoke to how a lot of the state-funded programs provided something she hadn’t seen before in learning and development grants: support for L&D facilitators themselves.
“Baked into it was ensuring that the instructors that are doing the basic instruction have adequate digital skill, which I thought was kind of neat. I hadn’t seen that in previous iterations of reviewing grants,” she said. “I thought that was really integral and I’d like to see it baked into everything we do, in all of our integrated education and training models.”
Robert Guzman of scaleLIT
As lead for several American Job Centers in Chicago, Guzman, ScaleLIT’s director of external affairs, often assists workers experiencing homelessness. He explained that there are a lot of moving parts when it comes to get these workers back into housing and job stability. They lack more than digital literacy, Guzman explained. “They have no computers, no internet. And so we quickly, before we could even get them in front of an employer, we had to teach them digital literacy skills,” he said.
ScaleLIT’s work, if funded properly, can ensure that housing case workers can tackle evictions and domestic violence concerns, for example, instead of the digital skills gap. More federal funding, Guzman said, would make the U.S. workforce inclusive.
Marisol Tapia Hopper, Seattle-King County Workforce Development Council
Tapia Hopper, the council’s director of strategic partnerships and funding, explained how she applied for funding from the Washington State Department of Commerce, with the objective of distributing more capital to smaller, community-based organizations in her region. That money went not only to upskilling, but also providing residents with devices, including hotspots for laptops. As the funding runs out in June, Tapia Hopper said, “this bill will definitely have a tremendous impact on the communities that we serve.”