Author's Note: Pictured left to right: Sam Melchor, Angel Windley, Ven Vanderneck, Anthony Gagliano, and Maribel Martinez on the last day of Digital Navigator Program Training, November 2022.
The computers sit row after row. Every day, people check-in and sit down at a computer here at CareerSource Suncoast. We call this space our Resource Room because that’s what clients come seeking. Whether it’s filing for benefits or claiming weeks for unemployment, or writing a resume to land that next job, they come seeking resources. And these days, all of those resources are accessed by sitting down at a computer screen.
Especially in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian, where new disaster resources were introduced, the ability to access digital programs and have the skills to obtain those resources was paramount. So the chance to be part of The Patterson Foundation’s Digital Navigator Program came at precisely the right time.
We serve individuals receiving SNAP or SSI benefits, so knowing those clients could take advantage of the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), we joined this third cohort wanting to learn more. Our facilitator, Maribel Martinez, was diligent in explaining the program and walking us through the process.
“Maribel has been an excellent trainer and source of support, opening my eyes to an impressive variety of resources that can be used to make digital access a reality for disadvantaged clients, potentially for free,” said Ben Vanderneck, CareerSource Suncoast’s Training Development Manager. “I look forward to becoming well-versed in these resources and helping create new opportunities for our clients’ success.”
Many of our clients arrive in the resource room unaware of the process or the resources available to them. Often, they lack the access or devices at home to complete applications or apply for benefits. Navigating the various websites and forms can be daunting too, so they arrive at our door looking for help with basic computer skills.
Similarly, the team here at CareerSource Suncoast is also always looking for resources to further enable our clients. The training with Maribel was enlightening on where we can direct clients to get devices outside of our local organization, namely, STUG. I had heard about the ACP but getting more information on the eligibility and learning about the application process showed that so many people may be missing out on saving money on their internet bill without knowing.
Digital training is probably the area I’m most excited to explore further with clients. This year, CareerSource Suncoast purchased a suite of training from a company called Metrix. At our SkillUp Suncoast site, anyone in the community can sign up for online, self-paced training, and it’s all free. There are thousands of assessments that gauge where you’re starting from. Classes on a host of topics, including starting with computer basics such as using a computer or mobile device to internet browsers and video conference platforms like Microsoft Teams or Zoom.
From there, clients can range into skill tracks for careers in manufacturing or healthcare, progressing through trainings that provide preparation for taking industry certification exams such as Digital Marketing, Human Resources, or IT (Cisco, Amazon, Microsoft, Oracle, et al.).
With digital navigation being critical to careers and everyday living, my hope with the Digital Navigator Program is to amplify and connect our clients to the resources they need to succeed in a 21st-century world.