Digital Literacy and Workforce Needs Discussed at Workshop

Ms. Nancy Callwood, the State Director of Career, Technical, & Adult Education and the USVI College and Career Readiness Research Alliance hosted a presentation on workforce needs in light of current digital literacy levels in the territory, on St. Thomas at the University of the Virgin Islands St. Thomas campus on Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2016. The purpose of the meeting was to share preliminary data and allow discussion on solidifying a K-16 pipeline that imparts the quality information technology (IT) skills needed by employees as well as entrepreneurs, programmers, system administrators, engineers, and more. A similar meeting was held on Nov. 10 on St. Croix at the Curriculum Center.

“Digital Literacy is more expansive than computer literacy or technical education,” the report states. “It is not just about how to use a particular type of software or hardware but about how to use technology as a tool to create, explore, innovate, and communicate.” In today’s marketplace, even jobs that do not require the use of technology such as food service, housekeeping and basic maintenance may be out of reach for the applicant who does not possess the skills to maintain an email address and navigate complicated online forms. Additionally, employed individuals are often asked to collaborate, manage files, update web sites, utilize content management systems (CMS), and communicate via email and social media.

The audience, made up of representatives from the Virgin Islands Next Generation Network, Inc. (viNGN), the USVI Bureau of Economic Research, International Capitol Management, the USVI Department of Labor, the USVI Department of Education, and the University of the Virgin Islands (UVI), came to discuss how career and technical coordinators, the Department of Education, the business community, UVI and community agencies are currently managing the facilitation of digital literacy training.

The report concludes with a number of recommendations to better prepare local graduates to fill positions requiring digital literacy from employers and local experts:

  • Require the use of digital skills across the K-12 platform, not just during the applied computer science or related training
  • Increase students’ awareness of hard-to-fill technical careers through sharing information and having companies participate in career days and fairs
  • Incorporate existing training resources for Microsoft Office, social media and computer coding. Many of these are free to use (visit our Free Online Training page, bookmark our PCC Training Events page, and sign up for blog updates to be alerted of new blog posts)
  • Technical training and education officials should continue to maintain and enhance their ongoing relationship with employers

The study included input from 4 employers or HR managers in health, computer programming, hospitality, and finance/consulting; 2 UVI professors in the business development and computer science fields; 2 USVI government officials who interface regularly with local employers; and 1 member of a community agency charged with providing digital literacy skills training to the community at large. During the workshop, much information was shared and gathered, with the goal of moving forward to strengthen economic stability and generate personal success stories of entrepreneurship, leadership, and creative endeavors – as well as increased levels of employment.

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