March 18, 2022

Kilmer, Fitzpatrick Introduce Legislation to Close the Digital Equity Gap, Expand Access to IT Jobs

Washington, DC – Today, U.S. Representatives Derek Kilmer (WA-06) and Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-01) introduced the IT Service Corps Act, bipartisan legislation to support local digital equity initiatives while ensuring more people can gain experience to access jobs in the information technology (IT) sector. The IT Service Corps Act will establish IT Service Corps Volunteers focused on digital equity projects within AmeriCorps’ existing volunteer programming opportunities—ensuring that folks can have equitable opportunity to access valuable IT experience, while also supporting digital equity and literacy projects that bridge digital divides in underserved communities.

“We need to ensure that today’s workers are prepared for the jobs of tomorrow, including jobs in the IT sector. At the same time, countless communities in our region are still navigating digital equity challenges. In recent years, we’ve seen students struggling to get online for a class. We’ve seen seniors grappling with getting connected so they could have a telehealth visit,” said Rep. Kilmer. “The IT Service Corps Act is aimed at getting folks online as well as helping people gain digital literacy skills to access online resources and other needs. It will strengthen the capacity of local digital equity initiatives to support communities while ensuring that volunteers are gaining valuable experience relevant to the IT industry. This bill is a win for workers, a win for employers, and a win for local communities.”

“I am pleased to join Rep. Kilmer during AmeriCorps Week to introduce the IT Service Corps Act. Currently, professionals looking to enter the IT industry often face significant barriers to entry, including the cost of education and gaps in digital literacy, and the ability to gain hands-on experience in the field. Our bipartisan legislation will allow AmeriCorps to establish an IT Service Corps volunteer program, which seeks to assist volunteers with developing professional and technical skills in information technology and promote digital equity and literacy in underserved communities,” said Rep. Fitzpatrick.

Economists point out that the IT industry has opened doors to new career opportunities at a time when the importance of getting more Americans connected, and expanding digital equity and literacy, has become more important than ever. Unfortunately, there can be significant barriers to gaining professional, relevant IT skills that prevent participation from dislocated workers and individuals from marginalized and low-income communities. The ability to stay competitive in a new, post-pandemic economy will be vital to the resilience of these members of the workforce.

The IT Service Corps Act aims to help address the barriers to entry to the IT workforce and help local communities create more job opportunities. Specifically, the bill:

  • Establishes a new allowable use of funds for AmeriCorps to establish IT Service Corps volunteers within their existing programs. IT Service Corps volunteers would be focused on digital equity and literacy projects for underserved communities. Through this bill, AmeriCorps may also give consideration to folks whose jobs were displaced by the COVID-19 pandemic, or who have experienced long-term unemployment as a result of displacement;
  • Supports funding to provide technology equipment for volunteers while they are on the job;
  • Supports funding to engage technology industry professionals as mentors to IT Service Corps volunteers;
  • Supports the ability of IT Service Corps volunteers to receive training or financial support for training toward an industry-recognized IT certification; and
  • Requires AmeriCorps to report to Congress on workforce information related to IT Service Corps volunteers.

The IT Service Corps Act is supported by the Washington Workforce Board, America’s Service Commissions, Service Year Alliance, the Corps Network, and Bitwise Industries.

“On behalf of America's Service and Conservation Corps community, I applaud Rep. Kilmer’s introduction of the IT Service Corps Act," said Mary Ellen Sprenkel, President and CEO of The Corps Network, the National Association of Service and Conservation Corps. "From decades of experience, we know Corps programs offer a proven and effective model for engaging young adults in service projects that lead to work experience and the development of in-demand skills. Corps provide a strategy for training and empowering the diverse, 21st century workforce we need. This legislation will help provide a variety of career pathways for AmeriCorps participants.”

“National service has long been a pathway into good-paying careers, and is already a proven program model in closing gaps in digital literacy present in underserved communities,” said Kristen Bennett, Chief Strategy Officer of Service Year Alliance. “From Philadelphia to the Twin Cities, AmeriCorps members have stepped up to the plate to teach students and new Americans the technology skills they need to advance and thrive, while earning industry-recognized credentials. We are grateful for Rep. Kilmer’s leadership on this proposal that would expand opportunities for young Americans, as well as those displaced from the workforce, to serve their communities while gaining real-world experience in the IT industry.”

“The digital divide has kept many communities—especially disadvantaged, diverse, and rural places—from benefitting from the technology-based economy and technology-based jobs. When young people don’t see technology at work in their communities it’s difficult for them to envision a future career in technology. The IT Service Corps will create an important on-ramp to IT-based careers, and also bring IT support to communities and individuals who need it,” said Eleni Papadakis, Executive Director of Washington’s Workforce Training and Education Coordinating Board. “IT Service Corps members will perform IT duties at the nonprofit organizations that supervise their hands-on work experience, and may directly help the customers of these organizations—such as, helping low-income residents and seniors connect with healthcare providers through tele-health, teaching digital literacy skills, and providing entry-level jobseekers with needed computer training to apply for online jobs.”

“As the nation continues to move toward a digital economy, connectivity and access to online knowledge are indispensable. Bitwise Industries applauds the efforts of Representative Kilmer and the lead cosponsors of this bill for their advocacy of respected and influential national service programs that bring underserved communities online. Addressing the issues that have kept disadvantaged Americans from leveraging the internet and informational technology is key to improving their social and economic well-being,” said Jake Soberal, Bitwise Industries Co-Founder & CEO.