Job losses, particularly among people of color, younger workers, refugees and immigrants, and the housing insecure, are among the biggest challenges to hit Seattle as a result of the global pandemic. That is why we’ve partnered with the city of Seattle and the Seattle Jobs Initiative (SJI) to unveil a new $100,000 venture – the Digital Bridge pilot program.
Our new Digital Bridge collaboration will equip low-income job seekers with things like job training resources, free computers, and internet connectivity. Through this pilot, participants of various workforce development programs provided by SJI will be equipped with computers and a connection to the internet to complete their training programs that are now offered remotely due to COVID-19, and apply for job opportunities.
The first cohort of 20 program participants received the first set of refurbished computers on July 6, which can be a lifeline for these individuals at this time. These computers and internet access are helping them connect to the Virtual Healthcare Institute online learning platform to begin the Intro to Healthcare Apprenticeships (IHAP) program, a program offered by SJI. SJI partners with the city’s Office of Economic Development to offer these technical and performance skill training that leads to careers in our economy’s growing sectors.
“Having a computer and internet its critical during this time of social distancing. It is the lifeline to remain connected to the community, resources—and for those impacted by the economic downturn—connection to future job opportunities,” said Bobby Lee, Seattle Office of Economic Development Director. “Our partnership with Comcast allows us to support individuals working toward new career opportunities with the computers, internet, and digital skills necessary for career advancement.”
Participants of this cohort are 100 percent people of color—95 percent of which identity as Black/African American, 30 percent are refugees or resident immigrants, 30 percent are young adults between the ages of 18-24, and 25 percent are housing insecure.
A Digital equity gap, commonly referred to as the ‘Digital Divide’, is a gulf between those who have ready access to computers and a connection to the internet, and those who do not. The COVID-19 pandemic has shed new light onto this disparity as a portion of the workforce has easily transitioned to working from home with access to the technology and internet necessary to perform their jobs, while others have been further disconnected. Workers who are now unemployed due to COVID-19 and lack the technology and an internet connection are experiencing the greatest impact of the ‘Digital Divide’ that predates our current crisis.
Bridging the Digital Divide has been a critical initiative for our company here in WA state for more than a decade, and we know how important it is to use our resources to partner with cities and community groups to help close this gap. We are happy to work with the city to create a program designed to offer job seekers the digital tools and skills they need to access online job training and career pathways in growing local industry sectors and can’t wait to see the lasting impact this new program will have on its participants.
You can learn more about the city of Seattle’s digital equity initiative and how you can support it by visiting https://www.seattle.gov/tech/initiatives/digital-equity