Bridging the Digital Divide

How are you reading this blog right now? Are you at home or work? Are you on your phone or a computer? Unfortunately, many people don't have such luxuries. In a job seekers' world that is heavily reliant on the Internet, a lack of digital access means a job seeker must jump through extra hurdles to access up-to-date job listings, career development information, free online classes and other content that can help them find jobs and advance their careers.

As CEO of an organization dedicated to helping people find work, I see firsthand how important technology has become to the job search. Yet the digital divide -- differences in opportunities for people who have access to computers, mobile technology and the Internet and those who do not -- is still creating an uneven playing field in the job market.

This divide stems from a variety of socioeconomic factors, including age, gender, education level and income. According to the Pew Research Center's Internet and American Life Project, 96 percent of American adults who graduated from college and 72 percent of those with high school diplomas use the Internet, compared with only 47 percent of those without high school diplomas. We see a similar discrepancy when looking at income levels: 95 percent of people making $50,000 to $74,999 use the Internet, compared with only 68 percent of those who are making $30,000 a year or less.

To this end, Goodwill provides in-person and virtual career services across the country, and we continually train our trainers about digital literacy and inclusion. In fact, in one of our train the trainer courses, participants read a story about a woman who doesn't have a computer in her home and has to visit libraries to access the Internet to search for and apply to jobs. She shares her family's one car with a son who uses it to get to his two jobs, so this woman relies on public transportation. Unlike many of us, she can't respond immediately to emails or casually browse the Internet for job postings.

Bridging the digital divide requires improved access to digital technology and digital literacy classes.

Another part of Goodwill's portfolio of career services is GoodProspects -- an online community for career explorers originally funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Labor Employment and Training Administration. On this site, users can learn how to prepare for careers in fields from customer service to health care to information technology by accessing the knowledge of our online career mentors, other job seekers on the site, countless audio webinars and many group discussion boards. Users can also opt to receive job alerts on their phones via text message in lieu of emails that may require access to the Internet.

I invite you to visit the GoodProspects site or to volunteer as a mentor at your local Goodwill. Together we can help even the playing field for job seekers previously held back due to the digital divide.