Creating the Digital Bridge: How Physically Distant Technology Access and Assistance Can Support Workers in a New Economy
In the Seattle area, the massive job losses triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic disproportionately impacted lower wage jobs, workers of color, younger workers, and those with lower levels of education. As businesses reopen, some people will return to work, but many others will need to retrain for new careers. Living wage jobs increasingly require digital skills, but many of the recently unemployed are less likely to have the digital literacy required to access these careers and many lack computers and Internet at home. Physical distancing requirements have closed in-person resources and moved job seeking and career preparation entirely online.
To address some of the challenges these job seekers face, the City of Seattle in partnership with the Seattle Jobs Initiative (SJI) will pilot a small-scale program to provide job seekers with home technology and remote support to develop digital skills and prepare for new careers. Researchers from UW will work with the City and SJI to investigate key questions related to the program design, implementation, and participant experience to increase the understanding of participants’ needs, implications for future program design, and the impact on those who received services. The research will involve audio diaries and interviews with program participants and analysis of additional program data provided by the partners resulting in new, novel knowledge about these types of emerging interventions. The results will help to inform the City in decision-making and planning for future programs to support ongoing economic recovery efforts for people in vulnerable situations.
Chris Jowaisas, Senior Research Scientist, Technology and Social Change Group, Information School
Stacey Wedlake, Research Coordinator and Analyst, Technology and Social Change Group, Information School
Matthew Houghton, Workforce Development Advisor, Office of Economic Development, City of Seattle
Meghan Sebold, Inclusive Creative Industries Policy Advisor, Office of Economic Development, City of Seattle
David Keyes, Digital Equity Program Manager, Information Technology Department, City of Seattle
Ryan Davis, Executive Director, Seattle Jobs Initiative