İnnovation, Digital Divide, Skills Gap, Equity, Tech Training

İnnovation, Digital Divide

ServiceNow BrandVoice: Digital Skills Gaps Are Bad For Everyone

Underserved communities are frustrated with the lack of opportunity and companies are struggling to recruit talent. Here's how to bridge the divide.

11/21/2020 11:58:00 PM

From talent wars to workplace inequity, companies and people lose when the digital divide widens. This program is working to bridge the gap Sponsored by servicenow

Underserved communities are frustrated with the lack of opportunity and companies are struggling to recruit talent. Here's how to bridge the divide.

From talent wars to workplace inequity, companies and people lose when the digital divide widens.When it comes to the digital divide, there’s frustration on both sides of the equation.  Minority communities are frustrated at their lack of access to technology, training, and opportunities. On the flip side of the coin, many tech companies still struggle to fill their talent pipeline with qualified candidates.  

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The disconnect between companies and untapped talent is bad for everyone.gettyAs the global director of education services at ServiceNow, Faez Ahmed experienced this frustration firsthand. Having been with the company as it navigated exponential growth, he knew too well that there 

simply wasn’t enough trained talent to support the booming demand.  In January of 2019, Ahmed shifted his focus within the company to follow his passion for creating tangible, long-lasting opportunities for underrepresented communities, while also satisfying the need for well-trained ServiceNow professionals.

Soon after, the ServiceNow  program was born.  Staggered recovery President Clinton first used the term “digital divide” during his 2000 State of the Union address. Since then, the divide has become a chasm.  

A National Skills Coalition study revealed that a startling 50% of Black workers in the U.S. have no to limited digital skills. That number jumps to 57% of Latinx workers. In an age where the “haves” and the “have-nots” of society experience increasingly divergent realities, the digital skills gap has long-term implications for equality—now and for generations to come. 

Covid-19 has only intensified the divide. College-educated employees able to work from home have been largely shielded from the worst effects of the pandemic. The result is a projected  economic recovery in which prospects trend upward for these workers, while prospects trend down for all others. 

Reskilling is critical The new work-from-home economy has left college-educated knowledge workers mostly unscathed, while those with less education have not fared well.  “There has never been a more important time to address the digital skills gap,” said Ahmed. “There are so many groups underrepresented in our industry. Those who are poor, disabled, LGBTQ+, Black and other ethnic minorities, women, mothers and veterans returning to the workforce—and this is pre-COVID. Can you imagine what has happened to these groups now? They have fallen further down the pecking order. All of us need to seize upon the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of as many people we can.”

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Findings by the National Skills Coalition support Ahmed’s insights.  Their recently released Skills for An Inclusive Economic Recovery report finds that as the economy recovers, “demand for trained workers will increase, but that demand will be uneven and will vary by sector. We need to invest in industry-based training models to develop locally specific, industry targeted strategies that will help workers, businesses, and communities adapt to a changing economy. We should take steps to make sure that these training models are accessible to workers who have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, including workers of color, immigrants, and women.” 

The well of new tech talent springs from unlikely places.gettyGrowing the pipeline At its core, the NextGen program delivers a focused learning experience that builds critical, entry-level skillsets for candidates traditionally marginalized by the technology industry. Participants receive technical training and certification that leads to employment opportunities, the goal being to bridge the entry-level talent gap and support the growth of ServiceNow customers and partners.  

By focusing on women, veterans, and other underutilized populations, NextGen helps grow the next wave of tech-savvy employees. Just as importantly, it connects participants with companies whose tech talent pipelines are running dry. Bringing the two together is a clear win-win for those seeking new skills and the businesses hungry to employ them. 

Ebony Akkebala is one of the new wave of tech workers.  A participant in the NextGen Skills For Life program, Akkebala shared that “not only did I graduate from TechBridge, I was able to receive three certifications: jQuery, Scrum, and ServiceNow CSA. I am currently working on my ServiceNow CIS-ITSM, with the goal of being certified in February. Along with all of these great opportunities, I will be working with one of the biggest tech consulting firms in the world, Accenture, as a developer.”

The training has had profound effects beyond skill building. “My family and I are able to make a livable wage and are without fears that were once here a year ago,” said Akkebala.”The fear of uncertainty; the fear of failure; the fear of being judged; the fear of inadequacy; the fear of homelessness. I can't wait until I am able to start passing this knowledge of IT down to others.” 

Groundbreaking apprenticeships In August, one of the NextGen program’s most ambitious initiatives came to life.   Read more: Forbes »

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