New Initiative Aims to Help Older Workers Boost Digital Skills

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  • Boosting digital skills could help some workers avoid early retirement.
  • AARP and hope to help older workers adapt to a digital world.

A new program could help older workers attain job security or reenter the workforce.

Some people choose to retire early as a matter of choice. Others get forced out of a job because they lack relevant skills.

As work grows increasingly digital, older workers who didn't grow up using technology risk lagging behind their younger peers. That could mean many are forced out of a job. Similarly, retirees who want to work part-time often struggle with a lack of digital skills, leaving them unable to boost income.

Thankfully, there's a new program in the works that's designed to address this problem. And it could help many older workers not just build confidence, but build the skills to sustain their jobs or go after better ones.

A crash course in technology

The AARP Foundation and (Google’s philanthropic arm) are teaming up to help older workers build and boost digital skills. The goal is to provide training to low-income workers ages 50 and up. The program will be piloted in eight states over the next two years: Arizona, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Texas.

Learning digital skills could help older workers in a number of ways. First, jobs are becoming more tech-centric by the day, so developing those skills could help some workers avoid the chopping block. Boosting digital skills could also put otherwise qualified workers in a better position to snag a promotion. Take a fulfillment center employee who's up for a management role -- if that person lacks the skills to track orders and output digitally, that could be a deal-breaker. By learning those skills, that same worker could end up with a much better job -- and a higher paycheck.

Acquiring more digital skills could also make it possible for older members of the labor force to shift to remote work. A lot of companies plan to keep their staff remote even when it's safer to come back to the office. And that option could be a great thing for older workers -- especially those with health issues who don't want to run the risks that come with sharing office space.

Finally, boosting digital skills could make it possible for more retirees to join the gig economy. There's plenty of money to be earned in a flexible fashion via work such as data entry, blogging, and other roles that require only a laptop and an internet connection. Making it possible for retirees to go after these jobs could help them pad their savings and manage bills more easily.

An important program that could expand

AARP intends to assess the success of the pilot program and consider expanding it to more parts of the country. But there's a strong case for offering a crash course in digital skills to anyone who needs it -- not just older workers. And with any luck, there will come a time when workers of all ages and backgrounds will be eligible to receive the training they need to succeed in our increasingly digital world.

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