Broadband Communities

NOV-DEC 2017

BROADBAND COMMUNITIES is the leading source of information on digital and broadband technologies for buildings and communities. Our editorial aims to accelerate the deployment of Fiber-To-The-Home and Fiber-To-The-Premises.

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32 | BROADBAND COMMUNITIES | www.broadbandcommunities.com | NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2017 ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT Training for the 'Gig Economy' The internet has opened new possibilities for those who have difficulty finding employment in the current economic environment. To tap into these opportunities, economic development agencies must learn to think beyond traditional workplaces and traditional jobs. By Jessica Denson / Connected Nation T he traditional 9-to-5 job still exists, but it's becoming less and less common. According to recent research from economists at Harvard and Princeton, 94 percent of net job growth in the United States over the last decade has been in the form of "alternative work." However, few groups are training people for this type of employment. "Ninety percent of jobs created since 2010 are nontraditional jobs. ese are freelance or what are called gig-type positions. Many are online and require specific skill sets that companies need," says Stu Johnson, vice president of Digital Works, a training program that Connected Nation operates. "Yet our educational and workforce systems are not agile and adaptive enough to train people for the needs specific to today's job market. Historically, people invested in education they could amortize over a lifetime career. e workforce of today requires a lifetime of learning – the career someone has today might not exist tomorrow, and tomorrow's job likely doesn't even exist today." However, many communities, both urban and rural, have been slow to respond to this change because their economic developers follow traditional economic growth strategies. In other words, they're focused solely on getting companies to locate in their areas. "e bottom line is that just building a plant or improving a building so a business will move to a town is not where the economy is going," Johnson adds. "It's hard for traditional workforce groups to adapt to this new approach. ey need to understand that investing in programs that can train residents to fill these jobs, even if they are located elsewhere, means they'll be working from home or even an internet-ready facility in their community and contributing to their economic growth locally." FILLING THE JOBS OF THE FUTURE Digital Works is one of the few training programs tailored specifically to the gig economy. Connected Nation, a nonprofit that seeks to expand broadband to all people, established the program when it noticed that many urban and rural communities lacked digital literacy training. As of early December 2017, Digital Works had placed 852 people in jobs that required specific online-related training. ese jobs varied widely, ranging from customer service to tech support, web design, search engine optimization, bookkeeping, data entry, claims processing, travel/hospitality, title searching, transcription, telehealth and teaching. Depending on the job content, employers require applicants to have access to broadband at various speeds, either at home or in a co-working center. Even more important than speed is reliability – employers typically look for committed rates of broadband access rather than "best efforts" service. Digital Works training consists of a four- week-long class that teaches digital literacy and

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