Older workers who lack digital skills at risk of losing income. An initiative from Google and AARP aims to help change that

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For older workers, keeping digital skills fresh can be the key to staying employed.

Now, the AARP Foundation and Google's philanthropy arm, Google.org, are joining forces to provide technology and digital skills training to low-income older workers ages 50 and up.

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The initiative, which will target 25,000 people, will focus on women and people of color.

The program is set to begin in eight states over the next two years, including Arizona, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Texas.

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The new initiative comes as the Covid-19 pandemic has shed light on just how difficult it can be for some older workers to pivot amid a shift in circumstances.

Those who were able to work from home tended to fare best, the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College has found. But those who were less educated, and therefore less able to adapt, were more likely to be adversely affected.

Much of whether or not older workers can earn more and better compete for jobs comes down to their digital skills, separate research from the Urban Institute found.

The program's training sessions, which are slated to begin in March, aim to help participants find jobs, change careers or become entrepreneurs.

The workshops will focus on helping older adults improve their economic security and social connections. Topics will include how to use video conferencing, information security and office productivity software, as well as online job and networking tools. For aspiring entrepreneurs, there will also be sessions on social media marketing, crowdfunding, mobile payment services and graphic design.

The sessions will be provided by AARP Foundation and AARP's Older Adults Technology Services.

Google.org has provided a $10 million grant to the AARP Foundation to fund the program.

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“We think the digital skills are critical for this era and the opportunities that are being created by new technologies should be available for everyone in any city, in any state and at any age,” said Kent Walker, president for global affairs at Google.

AARP, the nation's largest advocacy group for older Americans, will evaluate the success of the program based on how well it helps participants increase their incomes and improve employment prospects for this vulnerable population, said Lisa Marsh Ryerson, president of the AARP Foundation.

The results will enable AARP to put together a comprehensive economic impact report for the participating communities, Ryerson said.

Based on those findings, the organizations plan to consider scaling their efforts nationally.

“There's no question that this program is needed across the United States,” Ryerson said.

More information on the program and how older workers can sign up to participate is available here.

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