Adapting Jobs Programs for Today and Tomorrow

Written by John B. Horrigan, PhD

“Middle-skill” jobs make up a large portion of the market, has positions to fill, but suffers from a dearth of trained workers—especially when it comes to digital skills. Digital skills refer to a person’s ability to use digital tools, applications, and networks to access and manage information. Pandemic-driven unemployment will only put the middle-skill issue into sharper relief. Three things stand out when looking at middle-skill jobs:

  1. There is high demand for jobs with digital skills.
  2. Too many of those who could fill middle-skill jobs lack the digital skills needed for them.
  3. The traditional job-training system is, for the most part, not suited to bridge these gaps.

There are models that can serve as a guidepost to stakeholders trying to address labor market needs. A point of departure here will be the role of digital skills in emerging models. Many middle-skill jobs require digital skills, but more can be done to integrate broadband into job training.



John B. Horrigan is a frequent contributor to Benton’s Digital Beat and a Senior Fellow at the Technology Policy Institute, with a focus on technology adoption, digital inclusion, and evaluating the outcomes and impacts of programs designed to promote communications technology adoption and use. Horrigan is also currently a consultant to the Urban Libraries Council. He served at the Federal Communications Commission as a member of the leadership team for the development of the National Broadband Plan. Additionally, he has served as an Associate Director for Research at the Pew Research Center, where he focused on libraries and