It’s never the wrong time to level up your computer skills, Pittsburgh.
In an era of unprecedented economic shocks, there’s one thing that’s certain: computer literacy is going to be vital for a huge number of the jobs that will open up in coming years. Seven out of every 10 new jobs in Pennsylvania will require computer skills, according to Governor Tom Wolf.
After launching the Beyond the Laptops initiative in collaboration with Neighborhood Allies, Verizon and a host of education partners have started to address the skills gap for Pittsburgh communities in need through a project called Level Up 412.
Level Up 412 offers 19 different online classes, for both youth and adult learners, that teach subjects ranging from Building Your First Website (for ages 10-16), to Digital Literacy for Adults, to Programming Concepts with Python.
The courses are crafted with the expertise of partners such as the University of Pittsburgh Community Engagement Center, Hill Community Development Corporation, Community College of Allegheny County, Homewood Children’s Village, Womxn in Tech Pittsburgh and BetaBuilders. Many of them offer credentials upon completion, from entities such as LinkedIn Learning. Courses will be taught by Pitt faculty members or professional IT specialists, for example.
While all classes are free, and open to all ages, some are already full.
“It’s time to increase opportunity along socioeconomic and racial lines with knowledge and training that prepares our community members to enter tech-based careers,” says Presley Gillespie, president of Neighborhood Allies.
The classes are available to Pittsburgh residents and several outlying communities that have been determined to have significant need: McKees Rocks, Stowe, Homestead, Braddock, North Braddock, East Pittsburgh, Wilkinsburg, Duquesne and McKeesport. Fall registration closes on October 15.
Some are embracing experimental approaches.
“Womxn in Tech Pittsburgh, for example, is doing wraparound support and counseling for women who are facing the additional burden of childcare,” says Vanessa Buffry, director of digital inclusion for Neighborhood Allies.
It’s part of a three-pronged effort by Neighborhood Allies and its partners to bridge the digital divide in Pittsburgh. In March, Beyond the Laptops was created to distribute more than 1,200 laptops to Pittsburgh Public Schools (PPS) students. With funds raised from local companies and foundations, the coalition connected 1,000 PPS families to high-speed internet.
“The next step is to give them digital skills,” says Buffry.
There are some fairly unique offerings, apart from the usual IT and coding basics. “Some are Mechatronics, like 3-D printing,” says Buffry. “People who are good at building things with their hands, now have a way to bridge that gap with tech.”
These classes can be the first step to something bigger. “We are really well-positioned to help people get tracked into either CCAC or Pitt,” says Buffry.