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Technology is the constant across any workplace. Being digitally savvy is necessary to even find a job in this age of online applications.
More Greater Cincinnati job-seekers are getting the digital skills they need thanks to a connection made by Local Initiatives Support Corp. of Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky. LISC brought together Accenture, a technology operations and consulting firm, and Brighton Center, a workforce development agency, to create and implement a digital literacy training program.
“Accenture partnered with LISC to develop curriculum with a clear focus on developing skills that will enable participants to gain not just an entry level position, but also have a clear path to a long-term career and ultimately financial stability for their family,” said Karen Oldeg, Managing Director for Accenture Products.
Accenture’s Skills to Succeed program began this year, and every Brighton Center enrollee —whether they’re training to work in business technology or as a medical assistant — goes through the two-week course. They learn to navigate email, websites and basic office programs, as well as troubleshoot common problems.
“Before, I didn’t know how to create or save a document. Or in Excel, how to make tables. Or in Outlook, to send mass emails,” said Fatime Diagne, a 41-year-old enrolled in the business technology program. “Without the basics of computers, we couldn’t do anything else.”
Brighton Center students received bits and pieces of these lessons before by necessity. But the Accenture created the program to focus on and address the most crucial digital skills — an assessment based on regional employer data.
“The Accenture curriculum really gave us a way to do it intentionally,” skills instructor Jonika Greene said.
The course teaches skills everyone needs, and skills that might be difficult to learn if you don’t have ready access to a personal computer. Brighton Center students typically are below 200 percent of the poverty level.
And even students who start the course thinking they already know everything in the curriculum walk away with new information, Greene said. “I’ve had many of them ask to work through the lessons again, just for practice.”
Sabrena Shackelford, a 25-year-old enrolled at Brighton Center, grew up using computers and technology. But the digital literacy course gave her practice and confidence using those skills, she said, as well as teaching her new methods and tricks.
“It’s robust and incredible, what Accenture created,” said Talia Frye, Brighton Center workforce development director. “For us to develop curriculum is above and beyond the capacity my staff has. We’re a lean, mean nonprofit machine.”
Brighton Center has 12 full-time employees serving more than 250 students every year, with new students starting each Monday.
“We want to seize their motivation,” Frye said. “Putting people on hold — their experience in the world a lot of times is always being put on hold. We don’t do that.”
Along with its workforce development, Brighton Center bundles together financial coaching and family/work support, which helps connect those in need to public benefits and other resources. Roughly 80 percent of students are women, many of whom have children.
“It’s looking at the whole person, not just the skillset,” Frye said.
And the training is a debt-free program. Tuition is $8,350, most of which is covered through Pell grants and other financial aid and charitable donations
“We know how critically important it is to start your career with no debt,” Frye said.
More than half of enrollees finish the six- to nine-month programs, and once 80 percent go directly to work with employers like St. Elizabeth Physicians in Northern Kentucky. The digital literacy program will make Brighton Center graduates even more attractive as new employees, said Jamie Ahlers, patient access manager for St. Elizabeth.
“The more information and knowledge they have coming in around digital literacy and general technology, the smoother the transition will be to the specific physician’s program,” Ahlers said.
A year after starting work, 91 percent of Brighton Center graduates still are at their jobs.
“We’re very, very proud of that number,” Frye said. “Our trainees lives are very complicated and they’re really making an effort to change their lives.”