Scaling Up Digital Skills to Help Close the Digital Divide

group of people working collaboratively on computers

There is overwhelming demand for workers with digital skills across all industries – not just the tech sector – but nearly one-third of the American workforce lacks foundational digital skills, according to new research from the National Skills Coalition.

Why it matters: The digital skills gap, or the divide that exists between those who have the access and support needed to grow their digital skills and those who do not, exacerbates existing inequalities within the American workforce. 

Digital skills, such as using a computer, accessing the internet, and sending email, are now being regarded more and more as essential. Those who do not have the skills needed to keep up with digital transformation are less likely to achieve financial security and career growth.

Zoom out: COVID-19 demonstrated that access to broadband is critical. Yet expanding high-speed internet access is only half the battle. In order to successfully close the digital divide, America must also close its digital skills gap. To put it simply, internet access and computers mean very little without the ability to use them to their fullest potential. 

What Does America’s Digital Skills Gap Look Like?

Here’s an overview of what the National Skills Coalition found:

  • 92% of all job ads require digital skills, with this demand holding true across all industries and nearly every occupation.
  • Yet, many workers do not have the opportunities to build digital skills, with workers of color falling disproportionately into this category.
  • People who qualify for jobs that require even one digital skill can earn an average of 23% more than those working in jobs requiring no digital skills – a typical annual salary increase of $8,000.

Dive deeper: To learn more about the current digital skills gap among America’s workforce, check out the full report.

How Can America Close the Digital Skills Gap?

With each state about to receive federal funding to help close the digital divide, America is at a pivotal moment for scaling up a digitally skilled workforce.

Funding can be used to boost partnerships between government, companies, and community organizations to equip workers with the digital skills they need to succeed. Such programs include:

  • Project Up: Comcast’s $1 billion commitment to advance digital equity. Through its 1,000+ partnerships, the initiative has reached millions of people to expand connectivity, provide inclusive digital skills trainings, and empower entrepreneurism.
  • Cox Digital Academy: Through this free-to-use online platform, Cox provides educational content, games, and tutorials for families, students, and educators on all things computer literacy. Through its commitment to digital inclusion, Cox also provides subsidized internet for children to support in-home and after school learning, as well as technology equipment for under-resourced households.

Other leading cable broadband providers are also moving the needle on the digital divide by offering low-cost internet service, computer equipment, digital literacy training, and more.  

With the importance of not only digital access but also digital skills clear, it’s time for America to move forward and make change.

To be a part of the movement, click here and learn about our #ConnectivityCounts campaign to ensure that states are successful at closing America’s digital divide.