Why Digital Inclusion is Important for Older Workers

Ohio has a long history of innovation, from Dayton’s Wright brothers’ wing design that flew the world’s first successful airplane to Thomas Edison’s groundbreaking patents and invention of the light bulb.

Trailblazing new horizons has often been at the forefront of Ohio’s experience, and as we continue in the 21st century, we turn our focus to ensuring a productive and inclusive workforce with greater access to technology.

Breaking barriers with broadband

A major step in shrinking the digital divide is getting people connected to the internet. The Ohio Broadband Strategy provided the data we need to connect our older workforce to digital skills and let us know what is available in Ohio. 

For more than 300,000 households in Ohio representing close to 1 million Ohioans, a lack of access to high-speed internet is a critical barrier. Ohio’s most recent mapping efforts show that many Ohioans, particularly in rural areas, face connectivity issues. For adults who are looking for a new job or access to online education and training programs, internet connectivity often does not exist.

At VANTAGE, we recognize the importance of digital inclusion. We’re tackling the solution with a pilot project Shrinking the Digital Divide for Older Ohioans, a digital inclusion effort that improves digital access and computer competencies of older Ohioans.

Getting older Ohioans the skills they need

Digital competencies are skills that the workforce needs and VANTAGE Aging is solving the problem by providing access to digital tools and training. The pilot Shrinking the Digital Divide program is unique among similar projects because the emphasis is on workforce development specifically for adults age 55 and older.

The purpose of Shrinking the Digital Divide for Older Ohioans project is to develop the individual capacity of older Ohioans by:  

  • Expanding internet and computer access.
  • Upskilling individuals’ digital literacy and requisite competencies with workplace digital technologies.
  • Better preparing older Ohioans for unsubsidized employment through increased opportunities for conducting job searches online while refining workplace competencies and skills.

The project is designed to improve individual skills to improve employment outcomes for older individuals who are excluded from the digital economy and are negatively impacted by the Digital Divide. Eligible participants are low-income, over 55 years old, and unemployed.

Funding for this innovative project is through the Department of Labor. The goal is to reduce barriers created by the Digital Divide and improve workforce development service delivery to better prepare job seeking participants for employment. 

“The coronavirus pandemic has placed a significant impact on older job seekers who were already facing barriers to employment, including ageism,” said Director of SCSEP Kate Harkin. “By advancing digital inclusion, we give older job seekers the tools they need to succeed in today’s workplace.”

How Ohio benefits from digital inclusion

Now more than ever, our economy relies on digital competencies to get things done. Our workforce must reflect the skills needed for companies large and small and across all industries. Digital inclusion allows Ohio to tap into the valuable attributes older workers bring to the table and ensure a healthy, growing economy.

By 2031, one in four Ohioans will be 65 years and older. The average retirement age of a baby boomer lies somewhere between 61 and 65, making one of the main challenges of today’s workforce filling the talent gap that’s left between the number of baby boomers that retire and the number of younger workers with the right skills to replace them.

By empowering older workers with the tools that they need to succeed, employers benefit from older employees’ knowledge, skills, and abilities to get done what needs to get done.

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