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Initiative Shows How to Tackle Digital Divide for Latino Households

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Monday, September 20, 2021   

PORTLAND, Ore. - A growing slice of the workforce is Hispanic, but a disproportionate number of Hispanic households don't have regular access to the internet. It could be cutting many off from the digital economy. An initiative is aiming to tackle this issue.

In Oregon, the Hispanic population grew 30% between the 2010 and 2020 census, comprising 14% of the state's population.

Diana Caba, assistant vice president for policy and community engagement with the Hispanic Federation, said one way to ensure people in these communities have the skills they need for the economy is to meet them where they are.

"Recognizing that new technologies are dramatically changing the workforce requirements of our economy." said Caba, "For Latino nonprofits that are engaged in workforce training to best serve the needs of the people they train the idea is to adapt a curriculum and develop capacity to prepare students and workers for the digital economy."

The Latino Digital Accelerator Initiative currently operates in ten states, including Washington and California, but not yet in Oregon. However, the need is great across the nation: as many as one-third of Latino families don't have regular access to the internet.

Caba said the Latino Digital Accelerator Initiative started just before the COVID-19 pandemic, which presented a new challenge.

"With the onset of the pandemic," said Caba, "that really led everyone from a panic to pivot moment of how do we administer these types of programs for the community knowing that that's exactly what this initiative is there to address - the lack of digital skills that are found in the Latino community."

Caba said the future belongs to those who are connected. She said that applies not just to people looking to connect to education resources like universities, but also for people who may be on less traditional paths like technical colleges and apprenticeships.

"To be able to still access quality training that will lead to quality employment," said Caba, "that really at the end of the day is what this initiative boils down to."

Support for this reporting was provided by Lumina Foundation.




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