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Empowering workers through digital skills building

What are digital skills?

In today’s economy, workers need foundational digital skills and knowledge to adapt and respond to new technology, systems, tools, and processes. The pandemic has exacerbated this in recent months, as businesses adapt to changing ways of reaching customers, often resulting in new operating procedures and accelerating automation and digitization

In its 2019 report Digital Blindspot: How Digital Literacy Can Create a More Resilient Workforce , the Rework America Business Network created a framework to categorize the skills workers need--distinguishing between employability digital skills like problem solving with technology that increase the marginal likelihood of employment and a broader set of foundational skills.

Employability digital skills are the “basic set of capabilities workers need in order to use devices, data, and computing proficiently, safely, and ethically to perform their job’s core activities in the increasingly digitized future of work.” This distinction enables workers to focus on building work-relevant digital skills, prioritizing time and resources for the skills that will help lead to employment.

Low-income, people of color, and rural communities have significantly less access to the broadband services, devices, and connectivity. Expanding access to broadband is essential to ensure these communities can participate in opportunities for digital skills building and other online learning.

Why do Digital Skills matter?

As the Digital Blindspot report explains, “Technology’s transformation of nearly every facet of our lives presents both profound opportunities and risks. Finding and applying for jobs, accessing medical records, or even reserving a picnic table at a park or answering a jury duty questionnaire now requires access to an internet-enabled device. Our reliance on technology to perform even mundane tasks risks exacerbating gaps between technology haves and have-nots.”

“The ubiquity of email, word processing, and sector-specific machines or software platforms means the penalty for lacking digital fluency is rapidly growing, creating barriers for those who lack the technology skills or confidence to use digital tools effectively.”

What digital skills matter the most for employability?

The Digital Blindspot report outlines five dimensions of digital skills that constitute baseline expectations for employability digital literacy.

Baseline for Employability Digital Literacy Skills

  • Problem Solving Using Technology
     ◦ Definition: Interpretation and use of digital information (e.g., data, research) to solve a problem)
     ◦ Example Skills: Identify the correct data for resolving problems
  • Computer and Mobile Device Interactions
     ◦ Definition: Understanding the basic skills needed to interact with computers and mobile devices
     ◦ Example Skills: Typing, turning a device on and off, searching for a file
  • Basic Tools (e.g., Word, Email)
     ◦ Definition: Mastery of basic productivity tools and software common to most occupations and digital settings
     ◦ Example Skills: Proficiency in word processing, Sending and receiving emails, Proficiency with GSuite
  • Data Security and Safety
     ◦ Definition: Awareness of threats to a computer and techniques to protect computers, and data, from those threats
     ◦ Example Skills: Identify the various threats to your computer and the data stored on it
  • Data Ethics
     ◦ Definition: Understanding how to behave legally and ethically in a digital context (e.g., on the internet)
     ◦ Examples Skills: Explain intellectual property and copyright as they apply to computing


Additional Employability Skills

  • Occupation-Specific Tools
     ◦ Definition: Use of advanced digital tools and programs, used to execute specific tasks (e.g., programming)
     ◦ Example Skills: Proficiency with programming languages (e.g., Python)

  • Analytics & Data Manipulation
     ◦ Definition: Understanding how to interact with and manipulate data for a specific purpose (e.g., to yield visualizations)
     ◦ Examples Skills: Create and edit simple data structures and storage, manipulate data to render desired visualizations

Note: “While the primary five areas above are relatively stable across functions, the final two areas of employability digital skills— occupation-specific tools and analytics and data manipulation—have a significant degree of variability and encompass a wide range of technical skills.”

Free and Low-Cost Resources for Building Digital Skills

Examples of free resources to build vital digital skills:

Arapahoe Community College

ASU - Understanding Data Sources and Security Technologies



LinkedIn/ Microsoft/Github