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Serving Those Who Serve
In honor of Veterans Day, we are highlighting resources that can help veterans make a successful transition to the civilian workforce, including projects funded by the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) and State Broadband Initiative. These Recovery Act programs, overseen by NTIA, are not only expanding broadband access and adoption nationwide, but also offering tools for veterans and their family members who are seeking employment. For example:
The Massachusetts Broadband Institute is building a web portal for veterans and their families using funding from the State Broadband Initiative. The project is a collaboration with the Massachusetts Department of Veterans’ Services and the Home Base Program, a partnership between the Red Sox Foundation and Massachusetts General Hospital. The portal will give veterans and their family members one online destination to find links to federal, state, and local services and benefits, including resources on housing, education, and employment. The Massachusetts Broadband Institute, a division of the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative, a public economic development agency, will also provide training to help veterans use the portal effectively.
Through its public computer center project, the New York State Department of Labor has connected One-Stop Career Centers across the state via video-conferencing equipment to occupational skills training and career planning services provided by three state entities. This BTOP project expands access to services in low-income areas where some types of training may not be available locally. The project also augments the offerings of the New York State Labor Department’s network of 88 One-Stop Career Centers, which provide free services such as career counseling, digital literacy training, resume development, and job search assistance, as well as access to computers, Internet connections, copiers, and faxes. The new video-conferencing network allows people to access training programs and interview for jobs remotely. The computer centers are open to all members of the public and offer services designed for veterans and other vulnerable groups. Veterans receive priority service in all New York state employment and training programs. And each center has a specially trained veteran to assist former service members in their job searches.
The University of Wisconsin-Extension (UWEX) oversees the Building Community Capacity through Broadband (BCCB) project, which is using BTOP funding to construct a middle-mile fiber network in four communities across the Dairy State. The extension program also runs a related BTOP project that is expanding computer access and providing digital literacy training in five rural Wisconsin communities, including the Menominee Nation. BCCB has partnered with the College of Menominee Nation to reach Menominee Nation members and the surrounding community with digital literacy programs, including events for veterans. In June 2011, for example, the BCCB project held training sessions and an open house for veterans and their families at the Veterans Center in Keshena. The sessions are part of an effort by UWEX and the College of Menominee Nation to offer free computer training to Menominee County. Veterans have benefited from free computer labs staffed with trainers who can answer questions about email, the Internet, and workplace software applications.
Last year, Connected Living Inc. opened computer learning centers in 23 affordable housing communities for seniors and people with disabilities across northern Illinois. The BTOP-funded centers support federal and statewide efforts to provide affordable Internet connections and teach computer skills to low-income seniors, including veterans. Residents get access to computer labs and free Internet service in their apartments through the term of the NTIA grant. They can also take classes covering topics such as computer basics, Internet fundamentals, advanced Internet search techniques, open office software, and social networking. Residents who complete 12 training sessions and pass a skills assessment are given a new laptop to use during the time they live in one of the 23 housing communities. Connected Living has helped residents use digital technology to access health information and connect with family members online. Roughly 1,600 people have graduated from computer training so far, and 740 have signed up for broadband. Many more are expected to become broadband subscribers as the program continues. In addition, the project is providing digital literacy training in surrounding communities in collaboration with Area Agencies on Aging, churches, senior centers and other anchor institutions.
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Building on knowledge gained from managing its broadband grants program, NTIA has also partnered with nine federal agencies to create a web portal that provides extensive digital literacy resources, including services for veterans seeking civilian or Federal jobs. DigitalLiteracy.gov features tools from the Labor Department that match military skills with experience needed for civilian occupations, and a link to the Defense Department’s online Career Decision Toolkit, which is designed to help veterans rejoin the civilian economy. The site also offers resources to help veterans write resumes and apply for civilian positions, and links to information for organizations that want to hire veterans (https://www.digitalliteracy.gov). Other resources for veterans on DigitalLiteracy.gov include online classes that teach digital literacy skills, tutorials that provide software training, and links to job search sites, career development guides, and information on adult education.