Tech learning event aims to help Dayton residents catch up in digital literacy

With the number of everyday tasks that can be completed online at an all-time high, digital literacy is more important than ever. But while companies and organizations shift further online, people without the skills to navigate the technology can fall through the cracks.

The University of Dayton, CareSource, the city of Dayton, and several local organizations teamed up Saturday to help combat this digital divide by hosting a learning event at the Greater Dayton Recreation Center.

“Digital literacy is not just about navigating the internet, it’s the ability to access opportunities and key services,” said Jaina Utrup, a UD marketing major.

Visitors to Saturday’s event could receive guidance on how to apply for jobs online, manage finances through mobile banking, navigate a Gmail account and more.

“This is a great event,” said Dayton resident Larry Williams. “It’s encouraging because right down the street is the Westwood neighborhood where of the 4,800 residents, 48% are seniors ... there are so many folks who still have flip phones and not everyone is tech savvy.”

As vice president of the Westwood Neighborhood Association, Williams is active in his community, often assisting his neighbors with staying up-to-date on what’s happening in the city.

Williams said he’s urged city officials to consider older residents and those who don’t have much experience with technology when disseminating information about upcoming events or notices.

“We’ve seen notifications from the city that include QR codes without even including a phone number to call for more information,” he said. “Half of these older folks don’t know how to use a QR code.”

Even for younger, more technologically savvy individuals, accessing jobs in the growing tech field can be difficult. Barriers like having no access to a computer or a lack of specialized training can keep people from higher paying jobs.

NPower, a nonprofit organization that offers tech skills training and job placement help, aims to better prepare those who may be experiencing poverty or are otherwise disadvantaged for tech-centered employment.

Allison Williams, who was representing NPower at Saturday’s event, said the organization focuses on assisting young adults aged 18 to 26, as well as military veterans and their spouses.

“Our program is geared not only toward the hard skills it takes to get a job, but the soft skills, as well, like professional development, networking, and social support,” Williams said, adding that NPower can help program participants address housing or food insecurity and mental health issues.

“We can also provide clothing needed for an interview or job, so when they walk out of NPower, they’re a full, whole person who knows they have a support system behind them,” she said.

Charles Brown completed NPower’s 20-week training program and now works for Premier Health’s IT department.

“The first thing I noticed when I joined the program was how hands-on the leadership team was,” Brown said. “When I first started the program, I had no idea that I would already be working so soon after graduating. I was able to jump right in.”

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