Digital Equity Advances in Congress: Digital Skills for Today’s Workforce

By Caroline Treschitta, April 22, 2024

The “Digital Skills for Today’s Workforce” Act introduced in Congress on April 17, 2024, by Senator Kaine (D-VA), Representative Spanberger (D-VA-07), and Representative Valadao (R-CA-22), addresses the pressing need for digital skills training to bridge the digital divide. The bipartisan, bicameral bill aims to equip workers with the digital skills necessary to access and succeed in in-demand jobs and will help small and mid-sized businesses meet their hiring needs.

The bill specifically facilitates opportunities for career advancement for workers on the job and provides crucial reskilling opportunities for displaced workers. If passed, the bill will create quality career opportunities for individuals, strengthen businesses, and drive economic growth.

Key Components:

  1. Reauthorization and Grants: The bill proposes reauthorizing the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) to create new Digital Skills at Work grants administered by the Department of Labor. States or eligible entities can apply for funding to expand digital workplace skills for individuals seeking jobs and individuals looking to advance their career. Priority is given to entities serving individuals with barriers to employment.

Why WIOA? The bill builds on the success of the Digital Equity Act, while recognizing that the Digital Equity Act alone cannot supply all the digital skills learning opportunities needed to close the digital divide. Instead, Congress must also embed digital skills across landmark federal programs like WIOA. Further, the bill recognizes that additional funding is needed to support the work of organizations and businesses across the country helping people to build digital skills.

To receive grants, entities must submit to the state their plan for Digital Skills at Work grants to align with industry need, plans for partnerships, and alignment with state economic plans, among other requirements.

  1. Funding Allocation: Funding amounts are determined based on state population, working-age population, and indicators of low digital and information literacy skills.
  2. Competitive Funding: In addition to formula dollars, eligible entities can apply directly for competitive funding through Digital Skills for Today’s Workforce Act. Applicants must demonstrate their capacity to adapt to the current and future labor market by creating opportunities for individuals to gain digital workplace skills.

Importance and Advocacy:

The bill addresses the critical need for digital skills training highlighted by National Skills Coalition research indicating that 92% of jobs require digital skills, yet only two-thirds of works have foundational digital skills. This divide disproportionately affects people of color, low-income individuals, rural residents and other communities.

NSC played a pivotal role in advocating for the bill’s introduction. Leveraging its extensive network and partnerships, NSC identified digital equity as a significant policy issue and launched the Digital Equity @ Work campaign. Through groundbreaking research and collaboration with stakeholders, NSC developed the framework for the bill, aligning with the core campaign principles of reskilling and upskilling for all workers. The network then continued to advocate for the introduction of the bill through letters of support to Congress, Congressional briefings, and Capitol Hill meetings.

The bill’s introduction marks a significant milestone in addressing the digital skills divide and advancing access to good jobs. Moving forward, NSC will continue its advocacy efforts, urging Congressional co-sponsorship and pushing for inclusion of key policy priorities in WIOA reauthorization. Contact your legislators, today!

National endorsers

  • National Skills Coalition
  • Coalition on Adult Basic Education
  • Hispanic Federation
  • National Coalition for Literacy
  • NTEN
  • Third Way
  • National Digital Inclusion Alliance
  • American Library Associations
  • Mohuman
  • National Immigration Forum
  • Digitunity

State endorsers:

  • Virginia Chamber of Commerce
  • Northern Virginia Chamber of Commerce
  • Prince William Chamber of Commerce
  • Fredericksburg Regional Chamber of Commerce
  • Northern Virginia Black Chamber of Commerce
  • Virginia Minority Chambers, Inc.
  • Virginia Community College System
  • Bay Consortium Workforce Development Board
  • Indiana Community Action Poverty Institute
  • Southeast Community Services
  • The Arc of Indiana
  • Indiana Chamber of Commerce
  • Indy Reads
  • United Way of Central Indiana
  • Labor Institute for Training
  • RecycleForce
  • EmployIndy
  • Indy Chamber
  • R4 Workforce, LLC
  • Jewish Family Services
  • The Literacy Cooperative
  • Godman Guild Association
  • The Health Collaborative
  • Towards Employment
  • Workforce Development Council of Seattle-King County
  • Washington state library
  • Lehman College Adult Learning Center
  • Asc3
  • Mississippi Broadband Association
  • Digital Ready Hawaii
  • United Way of Greater Cincinnati