The business end of digital skills: everybody wins – households can gain $1,363 to $2,879 per year

The National Skills Coalition took a look at the impact of digital skills training on workers, the word force and businesses…

The findings in this analysis are unequivocal:

There is overwhelming demand for digital skills in the labor market, with 92 percent of all job ads requiring definitely digital or likely digital2 skills. This demand is robust across all industries, and small businesses are just as likely as their larger peers to seek workers with technology skills.

Yet many workers have not had sufficient opportunity to build such skills; earlier research found that nearly one-third of U.S. workers do not have foundational digital skills, and workers of color fall disproportionately into this category due to structural inequities.3

Equipping workers with necessary skills requires action by both private employers and public policy[1]makers. Notably, public investments in workforce development and education are especially vital given the unevenness of private investments and the prevalence of digital skill demands among smaller businesses, which depend on publicly funded work[1]force and education partners to upskill employees.

Closing the digital skill divide has major payoffs for businesses. Prior research has shown that workers value upskilling opportunities and prefer working for employers who offer clear, well-defined path[1]ways to advancement.4 Because turnover has heavy costs for businesses – with estimates ranging from $25,000 for workers who leave within the first year to over $78,000 for workers who leave after five years,5 averting or delaying turnover by ensuring that workers have upskilling opportunities can be economically significant.

Public investments in closing the digital skill divide can also generate economic benefits for individual workers and the broader economy. People who qualify for jobs that require even one digital skill can earn an average of 23 percent more than those working in jobs requiring no digital skills — an increase of $8,000 per year for an individual worker.6 These increased earnings could result in more state and federal tax revenue generated by each worker. Depending on the household size and composition, this could range from $1,363 to $2,879 per year.7

MN State of Talent Tech: Business better poised than workers? If so for how long?

The Minnesota Technology Association has released a report on the MN State of Talent Tech. The executive summary says it all. The opportunities are here but unevenly distributed in terms of training and supporting a diverse workforce…

The Minnesota Technology Association (MnTech) has long heard about challenges in finding tech talent, and in order to understand the true magnitude of this challenge has released the first annual Minnesota: State of Tech Talent report, detailing the current tech talent landscape. This report details how the tech sector continues to contribute to the strong Minnesota economy, with the average annual median tech wage at $94,715, 106% higher than the median state wage, an unemployment rate at only 1.1% in the sector, and 1 person hired for every 4 tech positions posted.

However, much of the good news about tech talent and opportunity ends there. We are 46th in the nation when looking at job growth in large part due to the lack of talent to fill open roles.

Minnesota is in the bottom half of the country for representative diversity in tech, with women, Black or African American, Hispanic/Latino, and Native American/Indigenous (BIPOC) populations all underrepresented as compared to their respective representation in the labor force.

In Minnesota, 89% of all tech job postings require a four-year degree, yet less than 22% of BIPOC talent in the Minneapolis/St. Paul metro area hold a bachelor’s degree. By most measures, Minnesota is falling behind when it comes to tech talent development. We are last in the nation, ranked 50th out of 50 states for high schools offering foundational computer science courses.

Only 12% of urban schools, 18% of suburban, and 25% of rural high schools offer foundational computer science courses, and women, Black or African American, Hispanic/Latino, and Native American/Alaskan students are taking advanced placement (AP) exams at rates less than half of their respective overall student populations.

Minnesota colleges are not producing enough degree holders to meet demand either, as they are annually producing approximately 600 fewer software developers than for which there is demand. However, over the last decade, Minnesota has more than doubled the number of computer science graduates, showing there is opportunity for increases in the years to come. Given that 72% of graduates from Minnesota colleges stay in the state, the 5th highest in the nation, investing in our college’s computer science programs will help solve our talent challenges today and into the future.

BBC chat on digital equity projects in Big Stone, Lincoln and Pine Counties, Austin and Warroad

Last week the BBC (Blandin Broadband Communities) final cohort met to catch up with what was happening in each community.

Here’s a very high level list of what happening:

  • Big Stone has smart rooms and training through PioneerTV. The are trying to get local government folks to join via streaming versus travel unnecessarily.
  • Lincoln is adding hotspots, adding an Internet safety class and an at-home at Lincoln County program and is getting fiber to some of the last areas.
  • Austin has hosted a PCs for People event (refurbished computer distribution), working on privacy internet kiosks so that people can privately get public access to the Internet, working on getting seniors more comfortable with technology with an online trivia event and digital literacy training.
  • Pine County held come “Going Google” classes, working with a provider to build towers for fixed wireless and working in another areas on deploying fiber.
  • Warroad is working on Wi-Fi on sporting fields to aid in livestreaming, completed Wi-Fi on school buses and enhancing backbone coming into Warroad.

 

Educause report finds unreliable broadband is a top stressor

Educause has released their 2022 Students and Technology Report; they are looking at undergraduates. Here are some of the top level fundings…

  • Educational technology impacts student wellness. Most respondents experienced technology challenges over the past academic year, and about half of them reported that such issues caused them stress.
  • Physical campus spaces continue to play an important role in students’ access to education. Survey respondents most typically solve technology challenges on their own, but they still use institutional services such as computer labs and Wi-Fi access.
  • The online versus face-to-face dichotomy is being disrupted. Students’ modality preferences have shifted toward online options since 2020. Even survey respondents who prefer fully face-to-face courses want access to a variety of online resources and activities. No matter the modality, students are looking for flexibility, social interaction, and academic engagement.
  • Device access is not a simple issue when examined through an equity lens. Although students generally have access to devices adequate to meet their educational needs, not all students have the privilege of using their preferred devices for their school work. Survey respondents with disabilities and those with pandemic-related housing situations were less likely to use the devices they would prefer.
  • Assistive technology can help all students. Respondents—even those not reporting any disability—indicated that they need to use a variety of assistive technologies. For example, over a third of respondents said that they need captions on videos.
  • Students are whole people with complex learning needs and goals. Completing a degree is the most common way respondents defined a successful higher education experience, but they are also hoping to secure a job, achieve personal growth, secure a high salary, and more.

Diving in deeper, they found that unreliable broadband was a top stressor and concern with students…

UMD is bringing back telehealth counseling by popular demand

Fox21 Duluth reports

Back by popular demand, the University of Minnesota Duluth will offer telehealth counseling again this school year.

During the pandemic, many schools connected virtually with students. Last year, UMD launched its telehealth program, that offers remote mental health counseling.

Now, the university is bringing it back, after seeing how well-received it was by students.

Virtual, in-person, and hybrid counseling sessions will be available. Free of charge and covered by tuition.

People seemed to like it…

“Last year we did our initial appointments virtually and then we talked to students about what it was they wanted moving forward. We were a little surprised, we thought that everybody would want to be back in the in-person in the office, but that wasn’t necessarily the case for all people.”

Baribeau-Thoennes went on to say, it’s important to keep virtual options available, especially during the cold, Minnesota months.

“Our no-show rates for appointments went down. Somebody might be like “oh no my car is blocked in and I have to shovel,” and normally they might have canceled the appointment, but now they just call and say can I switch my appointment to virtual.”

There are policy hiccups…

The kicker is — providers can only give services in their licensed state. Meaning UMD students have to be in Minnesota to use the telehealth option.

2022 Student Home Internet Connectivity Study

I’m borrowing the Benton Institute for Broadband & Society excerpt of the Consortium on School Networking‘s report, the 2022 Student Home Internet Connectivity Study…

In a previous study, CoSN examined the network connectivity experience of students who participated in virtual learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Now that many students have returned to their school locations, CoSN wanted to see how things changed. Major findings of the 2022 Home Internet Connectivity Study include:

  1. Addressing insufficient home internet connectivity must continue to be a priority for educators and policymakers.
  2. Students experience significantly slower network speeds outside of school hours than during school hours.
  3. There remain ongoing gaps in network performance and Internet speeds at all grade levels for students connecting from outside the school.
  4. Large disparities persist among student subgroups around home connectivity, particularly by ethnicity and for socioeconomically disadvantaged students.

FCC Announces Nearly $159 Million In Emergency Connectivity Funding – one award in MN

The FCC reports

The Federal Communications Commission today announced it is committing nearly $159 million in two new funding rounds through the Emergency Connectivity Program, helping to close the Homework Gap. The funding supports applications from all three of the program’s application windows, supporting over 300,000 students across the country, including in Alabama, Guam, Kansas, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Texas, and West Virginia. Nearly $2 million from the first and second application windows will provide support in the upcoming school year for approximately 15 schools and 4 libraries. For the third application window, the Commission is committing nearly $157 million that will support over 350 schools, 50 libraries, and 4 consortia. Total funding committed to date is nearly $5.3 billion.

One award was made in Minnesota:

Holy Trinity Catholic School in South St Paul total award: $18,638.00

Howard Lake (MN) gets Hometown Grant award from T-Mobile (Wright County)

T-Mobile reports

In April 2021, T-Mobile (NASDAQ: TMUS) announced T-Mobile Hometown Grants, a $25 million, five-year initiative to support the people and organizations that help small towns across America thrive and grow. Since the program’s start, T-Mobile has given more than $4.4 million dollars to kickstart 100 community development projects across 36 states, including the latest grant winning recipients.

The list includes Howard Lake…

Howard Lake, Minn.: Construct a community library facility to provide vital connectivity resources such as public-use computers and Wi-Fi, tele-commuter conference room and a soft interview space for the local police department.

OPPORTUNITY: Common Sense is looking for Emergency Connectivity Fund Stories

Common Sense reports…

The Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF) is a federal program that allows schools and libraries to provide laptops, tablets, and home internet service to students and library patrons who would otherwise lack them. It was created, in part, based on our research into the homework gap. To date, the ECF has connected over 12 million people nationwide. However, the fund will soon run out of money, and, when it does, the millions of students and patrons it is connecting may fall back into the digital divide.

Here’s the info for MN…

In Minnesota, there are 52,474 Home internet connections 192,276 Laptops and tablets and $66,210,500 ECF awards

There will be issues if the funding ends, but you can help especially if you know (or are) someone who has taken advantage of the funding…

 If the ECF ends, the connectivity represented in this map will, too. Help us highlight the ongoing need for student connectivity by sharing your story below.

What broadband brings to New Ulm MN – and other rural areas

In Newsweek, Minnesota native and Clearfield CEO, Cheri Beranek, talks about what a difference broadband makes to towns, like her hometown of New Ulm…

As I watched New Ulm Telephone become Nuvera, it grew bigger and provided additional services, and the surrounding areas benefited from that growth because high-speed access in rural communities can attract new businesses. When large facilities in these areas are already equipped with broadband, satellite offices or satellite manufacturing centers can move in more effectively. In the past, manufacturers would only go into rural markets for lower-cost labor, but now, they need labor anywhere they can find it. With broadband, companies can bring these well-paying jobs to rural environments where people need work and draw in even more types of businesses to support that growth.

When broadband brings opportunities into a rural community, it brings them to everyone, including children. Just north of New Ulm are several little towns where kids have to take an hour-long bus ride to get to the nearest school. With broadband in these areas, children could access quality educational services, tools, classes and support from anywhere, and a rural education could provide the same opportunities as one in a city….

The pandemic has shown us how hard life can be without access to quality health care and how much better broadband can make it, but people in rural communities have long understood these disadvantages. From economic and transportation concerns to workforce shortages and insurance coverage, barriers to health care in rural communities lead to less healthy people. When COVID-19 started to spread, the lack of broadband compounded all these barriers. As broadband expands into these areas to provide easier access to health care and telemedicine, a healthier population can drive a healthier economy.

After 12 years the Computer Commuter rides into the sunset (LqP County)

Mary Magnuson and I finished our tour of Western MN, with a final visit to the LqP Computer Commuter, a mobile computer lab and classroom that has been touring 6 sites a week around Lac qui Parle County. In 12 years, they have served about 500 people out of a county of 7,000. It received early funding from the Blandin Foundation. We thought it might be around for 5 years tops but Mary Quick has kept it running well past expected lifespan.

Mary drives the tricked out former hotel van around helping people use technology. Originally, the bus served a lot of students with new computers and free printing but in the last few years the patrons have aged. While we were in the library, Mary and I heard from the librarian that she had spent time in the Computer Commuter using the CC computer to watch videos while trying to learn new software on her own laptop. So many people have great stories like that. In fact, if you have a grandparent from LqP who knows how to use Zoom, you can probably thank Mary!

Many of the patrons have helped keep the Computer Commuter going the last few years with donations and generous memorial donations. Mary is moving out of the area but, as she says in the video, she’s there to help anyone who is interested in a similar project in their community.

Madison Mercantile: When broadband makes community easier (LqP County)

On our trip to Western Minnesota, Mary Magnuson and I stopped in to visit the Madison Mercantile. The folks at the UMVRDC (Upper Minnesota River Valley Regional Development Commission) had clued us into the interesting things they were doing. And while this isn’t a broadband-forward project, it’s an example of what folks can do when broadband is ample and the community is engaged – in part because they have been connected, even during the pandemic, via broadband.

The Madison Mercantile is a coffee shop, art gallery innovation center built in a rehabbed hardware store. The footprint is huge. We walked in and saw tables people chatting, art and the coffee shop. The proprietor/creator Kris Shelstad immediately apologized for the mess. (She was working on replacing part of a carpet.)  Then she quit what she was doing and gave us the whole tour, with backstory, despite the fact that she had no idea of who we were.

As briefly as possible, Kris is originally from the area. She moved away to Austin TX, joined the army, got married and a couple years ago lost her spouse. That led her back home, but she missed the scene in Austin. So, she decided to create the same opportunities for art and beer and music and community by buying out the old hardware store. She started to rehab it based on the needs of the community, ways to minimize heat bills and her vision. Her vision included creating a space to showcase art left to her from her friend Janice Anderson. Janice’s art is mixed media collage with an eye for color nuances, clever messaging and inherently rural appeal. It feels like through Kris, Janice is helping boost and nurture a local art scene.

Along with a couple of art galleries, the space hosts local musicians and serves as a “third space” community center. You can pop in for coffee or you can host your birthday party. There are spaces for local discussions and classes. In fact, when we were there a group of local entrepreneurs gathered to talk about using social media. (Funny enough, I recognized one entrepreneur from a social media class I taught in the area 10 years ago!)

There’s also a maker space or innovation center. It created itself because retired farmers from the community, who used to hang out at the hardware store kept showing up wondering if Kris needed any help or time to chat. Kris recognized the need and opportunity and made room. There’s also a museum of medical supplies like walkers and wheelchairs, which folks can borrow as needed. Apparently the 90 year old woman, who used to lend these from her home, donated them.

There are also plans for public computer access, a wellness center and Zoom room. If you are in the area, you will have to check it out. It’s the best example of a bottom up solution I’ve seen. Kris told us that she decided that for one year she’d say yes to everything. She has and she’s tired but man is that a cool center and it can’t help but engage community!

Wi-Fi On School Buses Eligible For E-Rate Funding

From a speech from FCC Chairwoman Rosenworcel to the National Coalition for Technology in Education and Training as summarized by the Benton Institute for Broadband and Society...

For more than two decades, E-Rate has provided vital support to help connect schools and libraries to high-speed, modern communications all across the country. It got its start as part of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. Over 25 million children take the bus to school every day. In rural areas that ride can be long. It can easily be an hour to school and an hour to return home at the end of the day. It’s good for young people to spend some time daydreaming, decompressing, and talking to friends, but wouldn’t it be nice if kids had the option of using this time to connect for homework? The good news is we have a workable, common-sense solution. We can connect our school buses and make them Wi-Fi-enabled—think of it as Wi-Fi on wheels. I am proposing a plan to my colleagues to make Wi-Fi on school buses eligible for E-Rate support. This is not a far leap to make. It’s both consistent with the law and the history of the program. After all, for many years E-Rate supported the use of communications for school buses—like wireless phones used by drivers—when shepherding students to and from school.

Grand Marais broadband project nominated for national award

From The Ranger newsletter

Grand Marais broadband project nominated for national award
Arrowhead Intelligent Region (AIR) is a broadband partnership that was launched last year between Blandin Foundation, Northland Foundation and Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation. The trio made available a pool of grant funds for local organizations working to support a broadband-fueled economy in northeastern Minnesota.

Minnesota Children’s Press of Grand Marais was awarded a $35,000 grant from the funding pool to deliver broadband education services. Children’s Press launched Litter Lab, a program designed to teach elementary aged children how to use technology to help solve a community litter problem with the potential to pollute Lake Superior.

Approximately 65 children ages 5 to 13 collected litter last summer in the harbor area of downtown Grand Marias. The children sorted, categorized and inventoried the litter according to the GPS coordinates where it was found. Some of the categories included clothing, food packaging, plastic bottles and containers, general paper products, and hygiene products such as plastic dental picks. Their field data was then entered into ArcGIS, an advanced online GIS engineering platform made by Esri that uses interactive maps and data-driven analysis tools that rely on top-tier broadband service to manage  data. ArcGIS produced reports that considered the types of litter,  coordinates of the litter’s location and proximity of nearby trash and recycling receptacles. From the reports, the kids could develop hypotheses about why litter was more prevalent in certain areas of the harbor. They also theorized about alternate, less bulky and non-plastic packaging design and options for some of the more commonly found items such as drink cups and bottles.

“As the project progressed, the kids began to see themselves as problem-solvers,” said Anne Brataas, founder of Minnesota Children’s Press. “The report data spurred great group discussions about effective placement of community trash receptacles, size and shapes of receptacles to accommodate varying sizes of waste items, and potential solutions for reducing litter.”

Brataas believes the success of the Grand Marais project could prompt the concept spreading into other communities across northeastern Minnesota. Communities can use the data and reports to make decisions about community recycling and the placement, design and signage for public trash receptacles. It could also lead to a mass rethink of how people stay hydrated such as bottle-refilling stations to reduce the amount of single-use plastic water bottles.

Littler Lab will be recognized at the Esri Education Summit on July 10 in San Diego, California. Brataas was chosen to present preliminary findings of the Grand Marais project,  “Kids Thinking Spatially, Acting Sustainably” at the annual Esri conference during the session titled Building Environmental Literacy Through Experiential Learning.

“Litter Lab is an excellent example of how technology in northeastern Minnesota can be used to creatively solve community problems,” said Whitney Ridlon, Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation community development representative. “It engaged the youngest of our rural population in the broadband economy by showing them how technology and internet connectivity can be used for the betterment of their very own community.”

Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation supported the AIR broadband initiative with $150,000 in Development Partnership grants. For more information email Whitney Ridlon at Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation or call her at 218-735-3004.

Lincoln County students learn about downsides of Internet and Social media

I’m thankful to the Tyler Tribute for letting me reprint their article on a recent meeting of students and lawyers about some tricky areas of internet and social media use by teens. I have done similar training in the past so I know how important it is. Often kids are given a very powerful tool with limited safety training, which can be dangerous. Lincoln County schools (with help from the Blandin Foundation) found a way to open dialogue…

Three schools gather at RTR for assembly on downside of the internet

Tuesday, March 22 the students in grades 5-8 from RTR Public school, along with Hendricks Middle School and Lake Benton Elementary, met in the RTR Performing Arts Center for an informative meeting about

the downside of the internet. The presentation was given by Joshua Heggem and Kristi Hastings of Pemberton Law Firm, located in Fergus Falls. The presentation was brought to the schools by the efforts of the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Department.

Hastings has represented numerous school districts for many years and talked about social media, technology and mistakes that other kids have made on social media that in turn will hopefully be a good learning tool to

prevent kids making these mistakes themselves.

This presentation came about as a response to the amount of cases they were seeing coming in, “When we started this, it came about because we were seeing so many disciplinary things coming across our desks. Expulsions and other serious consequences; Three kids getting kicked out of sports they love playing because of mistakes they were making on social media,” Hastings told the group. They came up with this presentation with a desire to get ahead of the rise they were seeing in cases based around social media, bullying using social media, and technology use and the dangers it presents.

Statistically, 97% of all kids in grades 5-8 are using social media of some sort every day. “I’m a huge fan of social media myself, so you’re not going to hear that it’s bad or that you shouldn’t use it at all because there are so many positive things that come with social media—the ability to connect with people all over the world, communicate with family and friends—these are all positive things that prior generations didn’t have.”

Hastings went on, “We are just focusing on the downside of social media and unfortunately, as lawyers, we see a lot of it.” Joshua Heggem shared a story of how quickly things can happen when social media is involved. “An instance I had once; a group of seventh graders who had made a Snapchat group for their class—they made it with the intent of bullying one classmate.

During these hateful comments aimed at the student, someone said they were going to put a hit out on the classmate. Within hours there were sheriffs at the school interrogating kids for terroristic threats.” Heggem recanted to the kids, “Some kids were charged with crimes; kids were getting suspended. The kid who made the threat, I believe was expelled from school.” Heggem made it clear that expulsion comes with heavy consequences, “That means you can’t set foot on school grounds, you can’t play any sports, you can’t even go to a sporting event, you can’t go to the football field.” Along with all those who faced charges and school consequences, there were also kids that needed mental health services after the ordeal, including the child who had been the subject of the bullying. Even if the kid who said the threat never meant it, the words were still out there on social media and have to be taken seriously. Heggem made it clear to the kids that things can’t be taken back once said on social media no matter how safe or secure you think it is. Hastings touched on things that don’t happen on school grounds; for instance, a kid initiating a fight at the park across the street of the school as opposed to on school grounds. “These school rules follow you when you are at a school sponsored event, when you’re here on school grounds, but also when you do things that negatively impact other kids’ ability to come here and learn,” Hastings explained.

This brought them to the next topic, “We do have a state law here in Minnesota that prohibits bullying of your classmates; things that are intimidating, threatening, abusive or harmful,” Hastings touched on. “Any bullying

that you carry over online is treated the same way. So, for instance, if you push a kid into a locker, that is the equivalent of bullying online and will carry the same punishment.”

They brought up “group thought” which is the concept that someone comes up with an idea and the group just goes along with it. “It happens a lot in our school cultures and climates because kids have not fully developed. Often times, the ability to say no I’m not interested in that idea/activity,” Hastings explained. An example used was one of another small school in Oakes, North Dakota which gained national news recognition.

“They had a tradition there of making a straw man before the homecoming game every year. So they would make the straw man and then burn it in a bonfire and then play their game,” Hastings told the kids. “A couple of

years ago, someone in a group came up with an idea—let’s make a noose and hang the straw man. Then someone comes up with the idea to put a jersey on it. Well, they put the number of the only player that is a person of color for the other team on the jersey. Someone in the group took a video of it, probably shared it with their close friends and contacts and someone recognized it was quite racist and it made national headlines. What it does, is it makes the world look at your school and question who lives there, what are they teaching here,” Hastings further explained to the kids.

The presentation touched on many topics that kids today are coming in contact with more and more every day—things like sending/receiving nude photos being a technical form of child pornography which is punishable by law, sharing pictures of your friends as a joke from the locker room is a form of privacy invasion and punishable by law. All the topics were relevant and appropriate.

Another presentation was given for the high school grades 9-12, after the middle school was done as it is a topic of discussion worth having from middle school on.