Foundational Digital Skills for Career Progress

By Ian Heck and Pamela J. Loprest – Published August 2019 in The Urban InstituteSubscribe to the WFMonitor eNewsletter

From this 2019 report, the Urban Institute found occupations such as: teachers, registered nurses; human resource specialists, secretaries, health aids and working-class jobs, like welders and retail clerks, that require less than a four-year degree – all necessitate digital skills.

The “Foundational Digital Skills for Career Progress” report is a great compliment to the over-abundance of literature focused primarily on technical skills. In this context, foundational digital skills are defined as nonspecialized and “may be important for carrying out a job but not the job’s main substance.” They “exist on a continuum from basic to advanced,” with basic being oriented toward computer literacy, along with understanding how to write an email, or making a resume, and conducting basic online searches. Advanced is considered as having digital literacy skills, which in this context means capable of retrieving information from databases, and “being able to combine base knowledge and problem solving to approach new platforms and uses.”

The Urban Institute observed that digital skills continue to grow in-demand just about everywhere. Even though their stats on this report refer back to Department of Education figures from 2011-12, I think it’s safe to assume that they are still highly relevant today. In general, teachers; registered nurses; human resource specialists; secretaries; health aids; and working-class jobs, such as welders and retail clerks, that require less than a four-year degree – all necessitate digital skills. The report also noted that “people lacking basic digital skills are disproportionally older, less educated, immigrants, or workers of color.”

Colleges and universities may want to boost their continuing education programs by offering relatively low-cost courses that at various levels teach foundational digital skills geared toward learners in their communities who need them to become more feasible job candidates.