- About NSC
- Skills Mismatch
National Skills Coalition’s Digital Equity @ Work campaign is our effort to urge federal and state policymakers to develop comprehensive policy strategies that guarantee foundational digital skills for all, lifelong access to digital upskilling, and rapid reskilling for those who lose their jobs.
Policymakers, businesses, and workforce advocates have long recognized that more and more workers in more and more industries are being called upon to work hand-in-glove with rapidly evolving technology. But the pandemic accelerated ten years of planned technological change in just a few months. It was a real sea change that workers and businesses are still scrambling to respond to – and that’s not just anecdotal. In February, NSC together with the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta released groundbreaking research that found that 92 % of jobs now require digital skills. Yet only two-thirds of workers have the foundational skills they need to enter and thrive in today’s jobs. The report also finds that this digital skill divide disproportionately impacts workers of color, low-income individuals, and people who live in rural areas, due to historic underinvestment and structural inequities. If we want to build a truly inclusive economy (one where workers and businesses who are most impacted by economic shifts, as well as workers who face structural barriers of discrimination or lack of opportunity, are empowered to equitably participate in — and benefit from — a growing economy) then ensuring equitable access to digital skill building is a critical building block.
As a reminder, our coalition successfully fought for passage of the landmark digital skills legislation in 2021 as part of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA). The law included the $42.45 billion Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) program and the $2.75 billion Digital Equity Act (DE Act). But this important legislation is just a starting point. Much more investment is needed. The good news is, Congress is listening! NSC is now working with Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) on the forthcoming 21st Century Workforce Act. This legislation would amend the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) to provide new funding for digital skill-building. This bill enables workers on the job and those who have been displaced to access essential digital skills needed in high-demand sectors like manufacturing, tech, and more. Specifically, the bill would:
This legislation boldly advances the work begun under the recent Digital Equity Act by making specific, targeted investments in digital workplace skills and supporting the development of digitally resilient education and workforce systems.
This still-to-be-introduced legislation was previewed at a special Capitol Hill briefing as part of our May 2023 Skills Summit, moderated by NSC Policy Analyst Caroline Treschitta. NSC network members are now working closely with Caroline (and Senator Kaine’s office) to identify a Republican Senator as co-lead for the legislation.
The US Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) has been rolling out the implementation of the federal Digital Equity Act and the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) program. Among the notable recent developments:
While legislative advocacy with Congress often gets the spotlight, administrative advocacy with public agencies can be equally influential in advancing shared policy goals.
For example, in response to numerous requests from our network for more and better baseline data on digital skills, NSC recently submitted comments urging NTIA and the Census Bureau to collect more data about digital skills as part of the upcoming Computer and Internet Use survey.
This is a supplemental survey to the Bureau’s ongoing Current Population Survey, a comprehensive and rigorous national data tool that provides useful public data for advocates to analyze and use. NSC also shared a comment template with network members that those organizations could use to submit their own comments.
Turning to another agency, the US Department of Education’s Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE) continues to support the advancement of digital skills through several national projects. One such project is Digital Resilience in the American Workforce (DRAW), an initiative intended to better prepare adult education practitioners who support learners that struggle to fully engage in tasks that demand the use of digital technologies. Amanda Bergson-Shilcock serves as a Technical Work Group member for this project.
OCTAE is also funding the Transforming Immigrant Digital Equity initiative, which is specifically focused on immigrants’ and English learners’ digital skills.
A handful of states continue to be national leaders on various aspects of digital skills. Colorado, Hawaii, and North Carolina were profiled in an earlier NSC blog post and continue to be at the forefront of implementation.
Among other states where interesting developments are occurring:
These are just a handful of examples. Other states are also leading vital work. Stay tuned for more state examples coming soon from NSC! And if your state is doing something exciting, please let us know.