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BRATTLEBORO — Last July, the Brattleboro Development Credit Corp. launched a 10-week digital literacy training for new Vermonters in partnership with the Ethiopian Community Development Council, Technology For Tomorrow, and the Vermont Department of Labor. The training is hosted by the Multicultural Community Center and was made available to new Vermonters of a variety of backgrounds and countries of origin. The course includes embedded translation and English language learners support.

As workforce participation rates among Vermonters continue to drop, the agency has been actively advocating for and supporting greater in-migration of new Vermonters. As a part of the Southern Vermont Working Communities initiative, the agency is leading a systemic approach to lowering existing barriers to relocation and employment as necessary, especially for foreign-born workers and noncitizen residents. This includes digital literacy and computer skills for jobseekers, many of whom have not owned or used a personal computer.

In seeking the right training providers, the agency is partnering with Technology for Tomorrow Inc., a Williston-based nonprofit group dedicated to supporting digital literacy and workplace skills, particularly for new Americans. The nonprofit provides real-world technology skills using flexible and interactive modules that meet participants' comfort and skill level. With five generations working together, building digital skills is a way to overcome generational gaps. Digital literacy skills help people use technology to collaborate and connect with each other, too.

Digital literacy skills, much like English literacy, are core skills required to advance in the Vermont workplace. Effective communication between employees and employers, as well as the ability to learn new skills, is considered integral to achieving upward mobility within a career field.

"Not only does strong digital literacy enable workers to communicate and collaborate effectively in work-focused activities, but it also helps employees keep a company's digital infrastructure secure and can bridge cultural differences within a workplace by increasing proficiency and awareness of online 'netiquette,'" said Sarah Buxton, state director of workforce development for Vermont Department of Labor.

By supporting increased digital literacy, new Vermonters can have greater independence in applying for positions posted online, greater access to online learning opportunities and a greater likelihood of promotion within a company. The Credit Development Corp. says its will continue to work with the community and regional training providers and educational institutions to deliver training and programming for new Vermonters that will lead to high-wage, high-opportunity careers.