New City Program Aims To Skill Workers And Bridge Digital Divide

By Johanna Cano, posted Aug 17, 2022
The city of Wilmington will meet new job demands in the region by equipping workers with digital skills that support higher-paying careers and the digital economy.

At its meeting Tuesday night, city council unanimously voted to use $2.5 million of American Rescue Plan Act funding to launch DigitalBridge Wilmington, “a partnership working with employers to create a modern digital upskilling, re-skilling, and job pairing program,” a press release stated.

DigitalBridge Wilmington will provide training, access, and connection in in-demand jobs for Wilmington residents seeking a transition to digital careers, with a priority of filling local job opportunities.

Partners in this new program include Cape Fear Collective, StepUp Wilmington, and Wireless Research Center of North Carolina (WRC). Cape Fear Collective, a social impact nonprofit organization, will oversee the Talent Pipeline Management, evaluation of services, and inform curriculum and program development. StepUp Wilmington will house the program and use its local employer relationships and existing outreach channels. WRC will oversee the program, service delivery and budgeting.

In addition, participating employers include Live Oak Bank, nCino, Vantaca, MegaCorp Logistics and Monteith Construction.

Guiding this new program is the growth in demand for tech skills that the nation and region have been experiencing. The city cites data from the Cape Fear Talent Survey, which shows that “up to 17,500 new jobs are estimated to be added to the local economy between 2020 and 2023, many of which will require digital skills.”

In a presentation at the city council meeting Tuesday, communications director Jerod Patterson explained that the COVID-19 pandemic brought to the forefront the digital divide where economic and educational gaps opened between those who had digital skills and access to technology and those who did not.

According to the monthly IT Job Trends report from NC Tech Association, which looks at IT and tech job postings, Wilmington’s postings this June were up 25% from June of last year with a total of 434 available roles.

The program is aimed at meeting residents and employers where they are and allowing locals to “take advantage of the digitization of the local economy.” 

DigitalBridge Wilmington is slated to start early next year and the $2.5 million will provide initial funding for two years, after which the program is expected to be self-sustaining. The city received $26 million in ARPA funding; this program is part of $9 million reserved for economic and community assistance.

Participants will take a digital skills assessment, meet one-on-one with a digital coach, develop individualized skills trainings, earn certifications, build resumes and begin their careers.   

“I would like to thank Jerod, his staff and the city for this community-based initiative," Mayor Bill Saffo said at the meeting. "The outreach we will be doing in the community [will] make certain that citizens have the job skills necessary,… get trained in this community and get to work in those businesses that are here and growing."
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