Addressing digital literacy

Our ancestors worked with wheels in fixed locations to spin pottery, process grain, etc. Rapid, in-place rotation saved time and allowed people to problem solve other issues. Eventually, someone got the idea to tip the wheel, add an axle and use this simple machine to move heavy objects more easily.

That original great idea, the rotating wheel, produced the next great idea, the rolling wheel, which produced the next great idea, the chariot … you get the picture. So, the next time you hear, “you can’t reinvent the wheel,” you’ll know that’s not entirely true. You may not reinvent the shape, but you can reinvent the purpose.

We are at one of those reinventing moments now with respect to the digital literacy of our workforce. A worldwide study by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development found nearly 70 percent of American respondents rated themselves “poor or below” in basic computer skills.

Training in technology

Digital literacy is a serious employment issue facing our country, but a solution is in front of us. Goodwill Industries International and Google.org have joined forces to create the Goodwill Digital Career Accelerator to help advance the technological knowledge of 1 million Americans in the next three years. Just like our clever ancestors repurposed the wheel, Google — through a $10 million nationwide investment — is helping repurpose GII’s strong workforce training infrastructure to make tech education free and accessible.

The target participants are youth, young adults, older workers, those with limited work experience, people with disabilities or disadvantages, veterans and military family members, and people transitioning from the corrections system back into the community. Through existing Goodwill programs, participants will learn about technology and computers, and have access to opportunities like coding and computer certification classes.

For people with life barriers, a lack of tech skills is more than just a roadblock, it can be a full-stop to obtaining living-wage employment.

A call to action

We frequently hear how Columbus is a Smart City, but while we have many measurable strengths and assets, what makes a city truly smart is a place at the tech table for all citizens, including those with learning differences and other barriers.

That said, remember that technology is the tool and people are the drivers. When asked if he still had faith in technology, Steve Jobs said, in a 1994 Rolling Stone interview, “Oh, sure. It’s not a faith in technology. It’s faith in people.” I concur wholeheartedly. We need to be in this together to make it work.

Do you have a job you could offer at-risk youth? Are your employees able to carve out time to help with job coaching or interview preparedness? Could you create an internship, so tech students have a reference and experience to go with their training? Could you be a mentor or friend to someone looking for a hand up? What resources do you have that could be reinvented? How can you repurpose your wheel?

 

Margie Pizzuti is the President and CEO of Goodwill Columbus. With a threefold mission of People, Planet and Prosperity, Goodwill is dedicated to helping people with disabilities and other barriers to employment find pathways to independence through the power of work.