Skills for the 21st Century

Basic Digital Skills Can Change Job Opportunities

These Basic Digital Skills Can Change Employment Opportunities for Millions of Americans

By Carolyn Berkowitz, Managing Vice President, Community Affairs, Capital One

Managing your email inbox. Downloading a file. Running a report by last name. Sending a networking request on LinkedIn. Staying productive at work despite a constant stream of digital distractions. These are basic tasks that many of us perform every day without much thought, but for many Americans these are skills they never learned and weren’t taught before entering the workforce – and are skills that can significantly impede both their employment opportunities and earning potential in today’s digital age.

I recently met a woman who had never learned to use a computer mouse –a small skill that was making a very big impact on her ability to secure and maintain meaningful employment. She was a whiz at sending texts, but when put in front of a desktop, she had no idea how to operate it.

A recent report from labor analytics firm Burning Glass Technologies and Capital One shed light on just how important these basic digital skills are for the job prospects and earning potential of millions of unemployed and underemployed Americans. What the report found:

  • 39% of available jobs are considered to be “middle-skills” (roughly defined as those that require less than a bachelor’s degree and pay more than the national living wage),
  • of those jobs, 80% of those jobs require basic digital skills that many Americans do not have,
  • what’s more, these jobs are growing twice as fast as those in any other sector of the workforce,
  • and they’re paying wages on average 18% higher than middle-skills jobs without a digital component.

The message from those findings was clear: in an increasingly technological age, digital fluency has become critical in gaining access to careers that offer a living wage and upward mobility – even without a college degree.

To help more Americans learn these skills – and increase their employability and earning power - we partnered with online learning platform Grovo to create the Future Edge Digital Literacy Challenge, a free digital literacy curriculum designed to help more people learn the top basic digital competencies required in today’s middle-skills jobs.

The Future Edge Digital Literacy Challenge will be available through Grovo’s online platform at and is entirely free and accessible to anyone. The curriculum will teach 10 digital competencies using Grovo’s science-based microlearning method — expertly designed 60-second videos followed by short quizzes to improve retention and performance. Topics include computer fundamentals, navigating Microsoft Office Suite, digital communications, online “netiquette,” security and privacy, online personal branding and networking, and productivity — competencies that are vital to empower the two-thirds of Americans who don’t have a college degree with the ability to secure better-paying, middle-skills jobs.

The new course is part of Capital One’s $150 million Future Edge initiative to help more Americans build the skills they need to succeed in an ever-changing, digitally-driven economy. And to help more underserved communities access the course, we’re partnering with our Future Edge nonprofit partners across the country – stellar organizations like the Latin American Youth Center in Washington, D.C. and LEAP, Inc. dba Brooklyn Workforce Innovations, of New York – to incorporate the tool into their existing programming. But anyone can access the course online, so I encourage you to share the tool with anyone in your life who may stand to benefit.

For more information on Capital One’s Future Edge initiative, follow us on Twitter at @YourFutureEdge.