Several foundations and programs are dedicated to promoting digital equity and workforce development for high school students. These initiatives focus on enhancing technological access, educational opportunities, and job readiness:
- CARES Act Funding Programs: The CARES Act provided $30.75 billion in funding, which includes support for technological capacity and access to facilitate remote learning. Key grant programs under this act include the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund, Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund, Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund, and Education Stabilization Fund Discretionary Grants.
- E-Rate Program: Governed by the FCC, the E-Rate program provides discounts to assist schools and libraries in the U.S. to obtain affordable telecommunications and internet access. Schools can receive discounts ranging from 20%-90%, depending on the poverty level and urban/rural status of the area they serve.
- Distance Learning and Telemedicine Program: This program helps rural communities use telecommunications to connect to educational and medical services, overcoming challenges of remoteness and low population density. It includes grants for acquiring capital assets like broadband facilities, audio/video equipment, computer hardware, and instructional programming.
- Atlassian Foundation International: This foundation aims to prepare 10 million disadvantaged youth for the workforce of the future through its “10 in 10” mission. It offers up to $1 million in grant funding through MIT Solve’s Youth, Skills, and the Workforce of the Future Challenge to various organizations. The foundation is also open to partnerships with other organizations for matched funding.
- Initiatives by the Gates Foundation: The Gates Foundation is partnering with institutions like Lumen Learning, Arizona State University, and Carnegie Mellon University to develop and disseminate courseware for key introductory courses with high drop/fail/withdraw rates. Their focus is on creating digital courses and programs to help students progress towards earning certificates or degrees, with an emphasis on eliminating disparities in dropout rates by race/ethnicity.
- Workforce Pathways for Youth Program: Administered by the U.S. Department of Labor, this program expands job training and workforce activities for youth. It includes soft-skill development, career exploration, job readiness and certification, summer jobs, and apprenticeships. The program enables out-of-school time organizations to partner with local workforce boards and youth-serving organizations.
These programs and foundations contribute significantly to bridging the digital divide and preparing youth for future workforce demands, with a focus on promoting equity and accessibility.