The Digital Divide in Central Texas is disallowing individuals from advancing in their careers, or even gaining meaningful employment due to their lack of simple computer skills. For Skillpoint Alliance, creating the Empower program was a way to reach the Austin community and introduce a basic understanding of how to operate a laptop, utilize Microsoft Office & Google applications, and practice typing in order to land a position in the technology-based working world.

According to the Digitalization and the American Workforce report by the Metropolitan Policy Program at Brookings, nearly 90 percent of “good” jobs require more than basic digital skills, and that  “entire segments of the economy are [effectively] off-limits to people who lack [these skills]”. For skilled trade workers, the uneven access to digital learning opportunities could disallow for economic growth in these industries; and while over 2-million jobs require high-digital skills, these jobs do not ask for a college degree education level.

Through a partnership with Shepherd’s Heart Food Pantry (and funding from Cooper Foundation), Skillpoint Alliance piloted the first Empower class to provide computer training for the Waco community in the fall of 2017. The five graduates learned skills such as checking email, communicating with friends and family online, online banking (using an app or website), and how to use applications such as Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint. One of our Empower graduates, Irene Gonzalez, applied for our computer training class to find a better job.

“I’m excited and grateful. [This program] has opened a lot of new doors for me; the knowledge of computers and everything I’ve learned has helped me so much that now I am working for FEMA. I decided to take this program because of how much technology is around us, I needed to know how to use it correctly to be safe and move forward with the community.”

Programs like Empower are opening doors (and closing the digital skills gap) for occupations in healthcare, production and maintenance. In Central Texas, Skillpoint Alliance programming offers an inclusive path towards economic stability, and are focused on preparing all graduates with soft and digital skills applicable to their workforce.

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