National 4-H Council Teams With Verizon, Micorsoft Digital Skills
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National 4-H Council Teams With Verizon, Microsoft and Others To Teach Adults Digital Employability Skills

4-H has announced an expansion to help older and rural Americans close the digital divide. Image: Twitter/@FireRescue1

The National 4-H Council announced an expansion of its 4-H Tech Changemakers program, which will be supported by Verizon, Microsoft, Land O’Lakes Inc., and Tractor Supply Co.

The program, which was established in 2017, trains and equips teens to teach adults digital employability skills including online job seeking, social media marketing, and more. Verizon, Land O’Lakes, Microsoft, and Tractor Supply Co. have committed a total of $8.5 million that will allow 4-H teens to help more than 50,000 adults in 164 communities across the country. The program will focus on rural communities and communities of color.

The digital divide for low-income Americans and minorities across the U.S. is shrinking but is still vast. The most affected are school-aged children, who struggled to get access to high-speed internet during the coronavirus pandemic, and older Americans who are unable to keep up with the quick changes of the internet. Rural Americans are also affected as they’re 10 times more likely to lack high-speed internet access than their suburban and urban counterparts.

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“Broadband access is critical to helping young people and adults develop digital skills for today’s jobs,” Vice President and Lead of Microsoft Philanthropies, Kate Behncken said in a statement. “We helped launch 4-H Tech Changemakers to align connectivity with digital skills training and are thrilled to see other companies recognize the importance of encouraging students to be digital advocates in their communities.”

The 4-H changemakers program is working to close those gaps in digital learning and skills by making digital skills accessible to those who need them most. Teens will become credentialed through formal training in teaching digital skills to adults. The program has already assisted more than 10,000 adults in digital skills training in collaboration with Microsoft.

“This program empowers young people to identify which skills are most needed and by whom in their community, and then to go out and teach them,” Jennifer Sirangelo, president and CEO of National 4-H Council said. “In this model, teens leverage their digital skills to give back to their communities while building critical leadership and organizational skills.”

The 4-H Changemakers program will be implemented in 23 land grant universities, 11 of which are historically Black colleges and universities