Cross blog post by Laura Breeden, program director for public computing and broadband adoption, National Telecommunications and Information Administration
Last week, President Obama signed the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act aimed at creating a more flexible and responsive system of workforce development to meet the needs of employers looking to fill 21st century jobs. Ensuring U.S. workers are able to compete and succeed is a key priority at the U.S. Commerce Department. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker served on a task force with Vice President Biden that recently released a report looking at solutions for making the nation’s workforce and training system more job-driven, integrated and effective.
At the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), workforce development is a priority of our broadband grant programs. Grant recipients have helped unemployed and under-employed people learn to use computers and the Internet for job searching, skill-building, resume development and networking. Today, in keeping with the Department’s commitment to helping match skilled workers with good jobs, we are releasing four case studies on employment-related impacts of our broadband projects. The reports, prepared by independent contractor ASR Analytics, examined the effectiveness of the more than $450 million in matching grants, provided under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, to establish or upgrade public computer centers and initiate innovative broadband adoption programs in underserved communities.
The first report focuses on Workforce West Virginia (WFWV). The agency is responsible for promoting employment and job growth in West Virginia, which has chronically high rates of poverty and unemployment. The grantee upgraded 19 workforce centers and 75 additional centers in locations such as libraries and veterans’ support organizations, with new computers and Wi-Fi. In addition to serving thousands of low-income and unemployed patrons each week, the WFWV centers experienced measurable productivity gains as a result of patrons’ ability to search for jobs, prepare resumes and practice computer skills more independently. This has allowed staff to spend more time focusing on specialized assistance. The high-speed network has also made intra-agency communication and technology management faster and more reliable.