Digital Equity: The Next Phase – Part 2
As mentioned in part 1 of this examination of Israeli efforts to close the digital divide, the past year of crisis has focused particular attention on the significance of proficiency. This issue is nowhere more relevant than in the area of employment.
A recently published annual report for 2020 by the Israeli Employment Service (IES) points clearly to the vital nature of digital proficiency in closing job market gaps. Indicating disparities among various groups within society, the report determines that the most vulnerable groups share one common trait: a low level of digital proficiency and job skills.
Some examples from February-relevant data in the report: 61% of Arab, 40% of Jewish Haredi and 30% of other Jewish job seekers over 51 lacked basic digital skills; 49% of Arabs, 35% of Jewish Haredi and 31% of other Jews through age 34 lacked the necessary digital skills for the job market (the percentage of job seekers through age 34 lacking basic digital skills increased among all population groups during the past year, as compared with similar periods in the past).
In view of these figures, the IES would like to see all job training programs include a component that strengthens digital proficiency – regardless of the profession being taught (among its courses, the IES offers remote-learning group training sessions in digital employment skills).
Believing in the importance of making digital platforms and services widely accessible, the Director General of Labor’s Office – responsible for the country’s employment training activities, and as such the government body that has borne the brunt of digital divide challenges – partnered with Digital Israel to launch “The Digital Career School” at CampusIL.
The School provides a totally free online learning platform offering a variety of courses in workforce integration, vocational education, working skills, self-branding, networking, online marketing, programing and more. Since digital courses are not a substitute for the benefits gained by an in-person experience, tutoring and digital literacy classes in small groups are offered to those without a digital background.
In addition to its focus on closing digital gaps in Israel, the Office seeks to engage the likeminded in the international arena in accelerating equal opportunity through online learning. In this way it hopes to transform the world of work through knowledge sharing, with the goal of increasing the amount and quality of online training courses.
This interest in engagement beyond Israel’s borders dovetails with the global nature of concerns about emerging digital challenges. OECD Employment Outlook data shows that 55% of highly educated workers have been able to work remotely during the period of crisis – compared to only 19% with lower levels of education. According to the LinkedIn ‘2020 Emerging Jobs Report’, more companies are embracing online intra-company training courses – showing a strong trend towards investment in online rather that physical training.
The above figures clearly indicate that Israel is not alone in facing this acute challenge. As the world moves through a second year of crisis, each country will need to work both to tackle its own domestic challenges in closing the digital divide – in employment and otherwise – as well as to engage with others in the international community for the greater good. This is definitely the spirit and the letter of SDG 8 – Decent Work and Economic Growth – which calls on countries to “Achieve higher levels of economic productivity through diversification, technological upgrading and innovation, including through a focus on high-value added and labor-intensive sectors.”
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