The Challenge awards a total of $1.5 million to support local workforce programs and close the digital skills gap

Kansas City, MO — Today, Comcast Corporation and the U.S. Conference of Mayors (USCM) announced the winners of the Talent for Tomorrow: Digital Equity Challenge grant awards program at USCM’s 92nd Annual Meeting in Kansas City. Each city has demonstrated leadership and a commitment to expand digital training programs to help close the skills gap.

In the small cities category, Kinston, NC; Michigan City, IN; White Plains, NY; and York, PA, will each receive $75,000 grants. In the medium-sized cities category, Cleveland, OH; Little Rock, AR; and Richmond, VA, will receive $150,000 grants for their submitted projects. The cities of Charlotte, NC; Los Angeles, CA; and Portland, OR, in the large cities category, will receive $250,000 grants.

“Mayors are investing in economic development that lifts people up instead of leaving them behind,” said U.S. Conference of Mayors CEO and Executive Director Tom Cochran. “The Talent for Tomorrow Challenge grants will allow the ten cities to grow these programs and build on their success. By providing digital access and skills training, we will be able to build a stronger, more diverse, more equitable and inclusive workforce across the country. The Conference is grateful to have a committed partner in Comcast, as we work to create economic opportunity and communities where Americans can thrive.”

“America’s mayors know well that closing the digital divide is intrinsically connected to the economic competitiveness of our cities and towns,” said Dalila Wilson-Scott, Executive Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer of Comcast Corporation & President of the Comcast NBCUniversal Foundation. “The Talent for Tomorrow: Digital Equity Challenge will help ensure that more people, especially those most often left out of the digital economy, can take advantage of the opportunities that come with acquiring digital skills. Comcast is proud to deepen our partnership with the U.S. Conference of Mayors through this new initiative that will build on our shared commitment to digital equity by expanding workforce and job training programs for ten winning cities.”

The Talent for Tomorrow: Digital Equity Challenge is a joint initiative of the USCM and Comcast’s Project UP, and it supports the launch and expansion of local workforce programs designed to grow college and career readiness, close the digital skills gap, advance economic mobility, and lay the foundation for generational wealth in under-resourced communities. An independent panel of judges selected by USCM reviewed applications and selected winners. To learn more about the program, see here.

The following descriptions highlight each program and how the Talent for Tomorrow grants will be used:

2024 Digital Equity Grant Award Recipients

SMALL CITY WINNERS

  • Kinston, NC—Digital Equity Corps: Administered by Kinston Teens, Inc. and the City of Kinston, the Digital Equity Corps program focuses on 16 to 24-year-olds from East Kinston, the most economically distressed census tract in the state of North Carolina. It also serves those from vulnerable populations such as older adults, individuals with disabilities, and those with limited digital literacy. The cornerstone of the Digital Equity Corps is the creation of a structured curriculum focused on digital literacy and skills development.
  • Michigan City, IN—Michigan City Digital Revitalization Initiative: The Michigan City Area Schools (MCAS) Digital Revitalization Initiative is a transformative project aimed at reinvigorating Michigan City through coordinated planning and innovative community technology solutions. A central piece of the initiative is an inclusive Digital Placemaking platform. Created by MCAS and local partners, the platform integrates wireless communication technology with community strategies, enabling seamless connectivity for students, residents, and businesses.
  • White Plains, NY—Project Digital Jumpstart: Project Digital Jumpstart broadens Westchester College’s Project Jumpstart programming, which aids disadvantaged high school students in their transition to college and careers through college-level courses, technology-focused coursework, and hands-on learning experiences to equip students with skills necessary for success in the digital workforce. Project Digital Jumpstart removes identified barriers to participation in the existing JumpStart program, especially for youth from historically disadvantaged communities.
  • York, PA—Digital Equity for Justice-Impacted Residents: The City of York’s Digital Equity for Justice-Impacted Residents plan expands on successful pre-existing digital literacy programming to focus on enhancing digital skills among justice-involved residents, and features collaboration between workforce, corrections, reentry providers, and human service organizations. The Digital Equity for Justice-Impacted Residents plan utilizes a three-tiered/step approach, with each tier focused on enhancing the digital skills and employability of justice-involved participants. Participants engage in all three tiers to explore career interests and gain necessary digital skills to succeed.

MEDIUM-SIZED CITY WINNERS

  • Cleveland, OH—REC-N-TEC: The REC-N-TEC initiative aims to uplift residents by equipping them with vital workplace-related digital skills, leveraging the computer labs and their dedicated broadband networks to amplify current programming (e.g., esports, entrepreneurship for teens, STEAM/STEM), while also providing on-site Augmented Reality (AR), Mixed Reality (MR), and Virtual Reality (VR) technologies to enhance and expand the learning and skills training opportunities for residents, thereby fostering economic growth and enhancing livelihoods.
  • Little Rock, AR—Digital Skills Growth Program: Technology Advancement for Digital Academic and Healthcare Careers (TADAH): This program provides underserved middle school students with core digital career activities, including health technology, healthcare, small business entrepreneurship in the digital sector, and enrichment activities from two specialized tracks: digital health tools and robotics. As their final projects, the digital health track students design a digital health app, software, or device tailored to address the needs of their school or community, and students in the robotics track build a robot optimized for competition.
  • Richmond, VA—Strategic Opportunities Leading to Valuable Experiences (SOLVE): The SOLVE program is designed to address the talent shortages in the fields of healthcare, construction, manufacturing, and information technology by preparing low-income, under-employed, and unemployed individuals to assume essential roles in the region’s biggest sectors. The major component of this program is the emphasis on exposure to new career fields and bridging the skill gap through career assessment, virtual reality (VR), site visits, and training provider expos, particularly for low-income, under-employed, and unemployed individuals.

LARGE CITY WINNERS

  • Charlotte, NC—UNTechCLT: The UNTechCLT is a free summer camp series that engages youth in under-resourced communities particularly between the ages of 12 and 17 around technology, career choices, and solving real world problems in their community. Participants learn hands-on digital skills and gain exposure to various career pathways, develop critical thinking and problem-solving abilities through design thinking methods, and practice safe and responsible technology use.
  • Los Angeles, CA—CareerConnect: The CareerConnect program aspires to foster a stronger, more diverse, equitable, and inclusive workforce by addressing the unique digital needs of the recently housed population. CareerConnect will offer a series of dynamic digital literacy 1-2 hour workshops at various interim housing sites. The program creates a collaborative learning environment through small group workshops, ensuring participants receive tailored guidance from the workshop Facilitator. The CareerConnect program introduces innovative skills training and employment preparation, focusing on equipping individuals with digital literacy skills and job-seeking techniques essential for success in today’s digitally driven job market.
  • Portland, OR—Digital Equity Service Corps: The Digital Equity Service Corps (DESC) builds on ten years of learning from NTEN’s Digital Inclusion Fellowship, which equips fellows with the tools to help build sustainable digital literacy programs in rural and urban communities across the United States. Through the DESC, five fellows are selected and trained in program design and management, accessibility, adult education learning methods, impact evaluation, coalition building, leadership skills, workforce development strategies, and more.