In celebration of Toronto’s Digital Literacy Day, Humber hosted a ‘Digital Excellence Through Partnerships” event at the North Campus on May 31. The event included a panel of guest speakers who are partnering to create the next generation of game-changers in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) by supporting young women to access and explore STEM-based careers and skills.

STEMing UP is a digital literacy program formed in partnership with hErVOLUTION, Shopify, Salesforce, Citrix and Humber College. The partnership is designed to deliver a program where young women are introduced to a wide-range of professional, skill-building experiences to help them aspire to and achieve future career goals in STEM.

Chris Whitaker, President of Humber College, delivered opening remarks prior to the kick off of the panel discussion between the partners of the STEMing UP program. Chris spoke about the key role of digital technology in the disruption of work across sectors, and thus the importance of digital literacy and innovative partnerships. The panel discussed how to work collaboratively to make digital literacy accessible to everyone. Key issues around digital literacy and access were raised as well as the assessment of the best practices for partnering across sectors.

A clear consensus among the panel speakers was evident: digital literacy is a crucial element to the future of work, and yet not all people, namely women, racialized people, newcomers, indigenous peoples and other marginalized communities have access to build these skills. The panel focused on the importance of forming key partnerships with organizations to equip the next generation for success.

“When you partner across sectors, there is significant opportunity to engage in interesting and innovative collaboration that can lead to really creative solutions to address systemic issues of access,” said Nivedita Lane, Manager, Community & Partnership Development at Humber. Nivedita further explains, “this is because the people at the table may work differently and have different perspectives, but when they come together to problem-solve on a shared objective, they can accomplish something amazing – positive social innovation across different aspects of work and living. Being able to share our example of collaboration in celebration of the Day of Digital Literacy, and encourage people to build their own connections, was probably the most exciting part of today.”

The panel was followed by a professional speed networking activity, facilitated by Shopify, where attendees were encouraged to network and build connections as well as ask tech industry professionals, education professionals, and community professionals about what each sector, specific to their organization, has to offer in support of digital literacy initiatives.

“There was somebody in one of my groups who I was speaking to who is a web designer and developer, and a female. I have a few female youths that are interested in doing that themselves, so I connected with her to see if she could come out to speak to the youth,” said attendee Jessica Sudhir, Youth Program Coordinator for the Media Arts program at Albion Neighbourhood Services in Rexdale. Jessica went on to share that, “I want them [the youth] to know that these people might have had the same obstacles that they did, and were able to overcome that and build something for themselves that works in their field, in their favor.”

“I think the audience probably took away a lot about how much opportunity is here when it comes to these types of partnerships,” said Tia Joseph, Solution Engineer at Salesforce. Tia also shared, “I think what I want and hope that they also took away was the eagerness that companies like mine (Salesforce) have to working with them and working within the community, and that they can be a part of something that’s really impactful that ultimately goes a bit under the radar. It seems obvious that people should have a computer or have access to the internet or understand basic digital literacy, and I think we take it for granted for those of us who do it every day. What we don’t realize is how very easily we can solve this problem for a lot of people by working together.”

All in all, the Digital Excellence Through Partnerships event was a celebration of digital literacy, innovative partnerships and an opportunity for participants to look ahead and consider their own future impact. A final takeaway from the event is that everyone has a part to play in the support of digital literacy programs that encourage exploration of STEM-based careers and learning for generations now and in the future.

For additional information about the STEMing Up program, visit: https://www.hervolution.org/program/