The nation’s most vulnerable adults need more online skills-building opportunities, as pandemic-induced job losses force many Americans to seek new skills to compete in the job market. The losses have disproportionately affected workers in low-wage jobs, as pandemic safety measures have led to a drop in business for retail, leisure, and hospitality industries.
A Pew Research Center survey late last year found that “lower-income adults who were laid off due to the coronavirus are less likely to be working now than middle- and upper-income adults who lost their jobs (43 percent vs. 58 percent).”
These adults are faced with having to reskill or upskill in order to participate in the job market, and as the National Skills Coalition pointed out in a policy report last summer, “In-demand careers increasingly require digital literacy skills, and for many industries, digital skills are entry-level competencies for new hires and incumbent workers.”
To help our nation’s economy recover, the public and private sectors must come together to forge more partnerships that result in online skills training that meets the needs of adults and employers on a regional basis.
The Coalition on Adult Basic Education has partnered with major employers to make skills-building programs accessible to the adults served by the field of 65,000 adult educators across the nation. These are adults who are taking classes in basic literacy and numeracy to earn their high school equivalency, so they have the foundation they need to move on to college to earn a certificate or degree.
Last month, we launched a partnership with IBM to customize the tech company’s SkillsBuild program to the field of adult education, connecting adult learners with employable skills and experience. SkillsBuild is a free digital platform that gives every adult the opportunity to develop technology and professional skills, regardless of their background, education, or life experiences.
Through a partnership with Google, we are connecting adult learners across the nation to Google’s Applied Digital Skills Curriculum, a free, online digital literacy curriculum. Over the past two years, more than 51,000 adult learners have learned how to set up a Gmail account, use Google Docs, create an online budget, and more through this partnership.
A partnership with Amazon enables adult learners who have a high school equivalency to apply for jobs available across the country. Once they are an Amazon employee, they have access to Amazon Career Skills, a career development program that offers onsite or virtual classes to help associates grow personally and professionally, whether or not they decide to stay at Amazon.
Partnerships such as these can be replicated at the local level. With so many Americans in need of basic skills, we encourage adult educators and employers to work together to create online learning that is tailored to their communities’ needs to ensure adult learners have the skills needed to compete in local job markets.
At the same time, employers will be helping to create the well-prepared workforce they need for their businesses to thrive and, ultimately, for our nation’s economy to recover.