Digital Literacy Key to Access and Advancement in 21st Century Economy

Digital literacy — the ability to understand digital technologies and know how to apply them — is a growing concern particularly here in Silicon Valley where the success of businesses and this economy is dependent on a highly skilled workforce. To gain access to the growing and high wage technology sector, workers must possess foundational digital skills and be able to build on these skills in order to secure jobs and contribute to their success and the success of this community. This is important for youth preparing for future careers, for disadvantaged workers who are seeking to gain entree and advancement leading to self-sufficient employment and for professionals needing to transfer to a growing field from now obsolete industries. And it is not just the traditional technology industries that require these skills. In the next ten years, 80% of U.S. jobs will require that workers be digitally literate.

On September 26, the NOVA Workforce Board adopted an Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) Digital Literacy Resolution and committed to promote: 1) access to information and communication technologies by workers regardless of income or advantage; 2) opportunities for students and workers to acquire ICT digital literacy skills in order to benefit academically and economically; and 3) the development of training programs that incorporate ICT digital literacy training as part of training providers’ portfolio of services. “This is a win-win initiative for workers and employers,” said Stephen Levy, director of the Center for Continuing Study of the California Economy and member of the NOVA Workforce Board. “Digital literacy is necessary for workers to advance in most occupations today,” he said. “And the economic competitiveness of firms here in Silicon Valley and across the state and nation depends on preparing everyone to live in a world that demands and rewards digital literacy.”

NOVA has asked the Governor to adopt a digital literacy policy for the state and has reached out to our consortium city partners asking them to adopt a digital literacy resolution in their own communities. NOVA has already received a very positive response about this campaign from our community partners. The Mid-Pacific ICT Center has posted a blog, Techwire wrote an article about this initiative for its website, and the U.S. Conference of Mayors and the California Workforce Association have referred to NOVA’s digital literacy campaign in recent newsletters. NOVA has now launched its digital literacy campaign as part of a larger ICT Career Ladder initiative, known as TechLadder.

TechLadder will encompass multiple initiatives with a focus on jobs connected to information and communication technologies that include both technology and nontechnology companies. Together, efforts will illuminate tech career and educational pathways that will enable high school students and unemployed and underemployed workers gain access to and advance along career ladders in specific high-wage occupations. NOVA will take the lead in TechLadder and will partner with key research and community-based stakeholders that will include BW Research, a workforce and economic development consultant firm from Carlsbad, and the Stride Center, the Oakland-based agency that trains low income workers for ICT careers. NOVA is also interested in partnering with other education and training resources including the growing online training market, such as Udacity and Coursera, and the learning communities.

To obtain more information about this campaign and to review a copy of the NOVA Board’s resolution, you can go to the NOVA website. We will be sharing updates about the progress of the digital literacy campaign and TechLadder in future newsletters and opportunities for the community to provide input and join this effort.