A lot of attention is paid to the growing need for engineering jobs and STEM degrees, but even simple digital skills can make a big difference. Knowing how to do things like tackle an online spreadsheet or word processing document can open career doors and salary potential in today’s technology-driven age – even for workers without a college degree.
Proficiency in digital media skills like graphic design and video editing, or knowing how to use sales software tools or fix a computer can provide even more of a leg up. Mastering skills like these can help you land good jobs with higher paying wages that require creativity and collaboration – and offer a pathway to advancing your career.
Yet there’s a large and growing gap between job seekers who have digital skills and employers with jobs that require them.
A new report by Capital One and labor analytics firm Burning Glass Technologies sheds light on just how important these basic digital skills are for millions of Americans – and how adding to them can enhance career progression in many different fields.
Using digital skills to build a creative future
In New York City, Bronx Community College student Caroline Espinal, 19, is pursuing a creative path she loves – using technology to make a difference in the lives of others – thanks to skills she developed starting in high school.
“The world is so technological now, I feel like community college is giving me all the technical skills I need,” she says, noting she found the cost of a four-year degree daunting. Her work experience already includes a stint at Dazzling Discoveries, a kid-oriented “maker space” where she taught young people about coding, 3D printing and more.
Espinal is an alumnus of the IN-Tech Academy high school in the Bronx and Mouse, a national youth development and technology non-profit.
The training she received in tech and design has empowered and inspired her to build up skills in digital media and film production.
As she plans for her future, the skills she’s developing are giving her confidence and courage.
“With all the knowledge we have today and how easily accessible it is, your passion can drive you. I know that I have so much to bring, whether it is a company that I am going to work for or one that I create, or whether it’s a movie that I direct or a project that I work on.”
Diving into the data
Two-thirds of Americans don’t have a college degree, yet more and more employers expect them. Developing key digital skills often can get you in the door without a degree – and unlock the potential for stable, long-term employment. In fact, the digital skills marketplace shows clear pathways for workers to advance without four-year degrees. Digital skills play a big role in jobs that require creativity and judgment.
According to the study of 27 million online job postings by Burning Glass Technologies and Capital One: ·
- Basic digital skills help you get started in your career and succeed. Mastery of spreadsheet and word processing programs are considered a given for most jobs: 79 percent of middle-skill jobs require them.
- Digital skills provide a path to high-skill jobs. Basic computer programming, web design, and social media skills can advance you upward in your career. They provide strong salary opportunities for middle-skill jobs and are critical in high-skill jobs.
- Jobs that are more digitally demanding pay more. Baseline digital skills alone pay a 17 percent premium over non-digital roles. Training in information technology (IT) or customer relationship management (CRM) software can boost pay to $28 an hour or more – the kind of pay that places you in the top 25 percent of all earners.
Building skills to start a career in tech
In Brooklyn, Vladimyr Menard can attest to the trends the report outlines – and to the power of digital skills training. He turned to tech-education programs at non-profits Global Kids and Per Scholas as a teenager to get exposure and training that helped him start a career in tech.
Now, he’s fixing PCs and printers – often stripping them down to a component level and re-building them – at a tech services firm.
“One of the things I love about the tech field is that you have to keep learning,” he says.
The new report builds on an earlier study by Capital One and Burning Glass Technologies that first explored how the rapid growth of digitally intensive middle-skill jobs can offer a promising career path for Americans who lack a bachelor’s degree. Both are part of Capital One’s Future Edge initiative, which is focusing $150 million on community grants and support to prepare more Americans with the skills, tools, and resources they need to succeed in the digital economy.
“In an age when technology is transforming the world around us, we have to make sure we’re doing everything we can to narrow the opportunity gap between job seekers looking for a solid career track and employers who need people with the right skills,” says Catherine Foca, Vice President of Community Affairs at Capital One.
With Future Edge, the goal is to holistically address the digital skills gap in part by identifying underlying trends. Digital fluency has become critical in the path to careers that offer good pay and upward mobility. As part of Future Edge, Capital One has partnered with Mouse, Global Kids, Per Scholas, and other non-profits to help more people get exposure and learn these skills.
Vladimyr says he hadn’t really thought about tech or computers until he got to Global Kids. He says the program – and former director of Global Kids’ digital learning programBarry Joseph – changed his life.
“Barry has been a real positive influence in my life,” he says. “And I feel like my passion for technology came through their Playing for Keeps program,” which teaches kids how to design video games with socially conscious themes.