Economic Development

We’re ensuring South Florida Latinos are ready for digital workplace of the future.

August 10, 2023  • Hector Mujica

With a median age of 29.8, Latinos are the youngest cohort of the U.S. population and an increasingly critical segment of the labor market. The U.S. Department of Labor estimates that Latinos will represent 78% of net new workers between 2020 and 2030. As the digital economy continues to transform most industries and almost every aspect of our daily routines, ensuring that Latinos can fully benefit from and contribute to the opportunities brought on by current and emerging technologies becomes a crucial priority for the future competitiveness of the U.S. economy. South Florida offers a preview of what the United States will be in the coming decades. It is a majority-minority community, with more than 85% of its population being of Latino or African-American descent; and over 54% are foreign born.

From 2017 to 2022, Miami experienced substantial job growth, welcoming 20,000 new jobs created by 320 companies that moved to the region. Of those new job opportunities, the Miami-Dade Beacon Council reports that about 4,400 are in the emerging tech sector.

However, while job growth is increasing across the area, so is the cost of living. According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Consumer Price Index for the Miami region increased by 9% from 2022 to 2023, compared to the national average of +4.9%. Similarly, the cost of housing also has increased by 15.4%, almost double the rate of the national average of +8.1%.

These stats tell a concerning tale of two cities, one where prosperity and opportunity expand across the region and attract outside talent and skills, which seems to be contributing to a higher cost of living. For many Miami natives, the new job opportunities are out of reach, as they require digital skills and experience not readily available, and the rise in housing costs pushes them out of their neighborhoods. Minority communities have been especially vulnerable in this transition, not just in Miami but nationwide: While 92% of jobs in the United States require some level of digital skills, 57% of U.S. adult Latinos have little to no digital skills training, compared to only 31% of the general population, according to a 2023 National Skills Coalition report. Many organizations in Miami are working to provide digital skills training in the community. Google has called Miami home for more than 10 years, and we have helped train over half a million Florida students, workers and small businesses in digital skills. But no company or organization can address these skills gaps alone.

In response to this challenge, the Aspen Institute Latinos & Society Program convened a brain trust of leaders and experts from the corporate, nonprofit and public sectors to develop the Aspen Principles for Latino Digital Success: a series of guidelines to inform the design and implementation of effective digital equity efforts targeting Latino communities in the country.

On July 7, Miami Dade College hosted the Aspen Latino Digital Success Summit, an action-oriented conference to discuss local best practices in digital equity, federal investments and the unveiling of the principles. It brought together senior officials representing federal agencies at the forefront of nationwide digital equity efforts, local leaders from Miami-Dade’s digital inclusion ecosystem and Aspen’s Latino Digital Task Force members. The goals included unveiling the principles, stress-testing the guidelines and codifying the experience to help replicate it across other majority-minority communities in the United States.

While Miami faces a unique challenge, it has also emerged as a pioneering city actively pursuing innovative approaches and partnerships to ensure broadband connectivity, technology access, and workforce upskilling are readily available to the most vulnerable communities. Miami’s digital inclusion ecosystem can provide valuable lessons and spark new ideas that can be scaled nationwide. The Aspen Principles for Latino Digital Success provide a framework and, also, a roadmap to maximize the impact of federal investments in digital equity.

Our generation has a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to set the tone for a community that is attractive and compelling to investors, entrepreneurs and corporations, while simultaneously elevating values of sustainability, transparency, and accountability that ensure that we safeguard the most valuable asset of the South Florida community — its people. We must remain committed to investing in local talent and strengthen the local infrastructure that is preparing South Floridians for the future of work. In doing so, we’ll create a local economy that is more representative, accessible and that, ultimately, works for everyone.

This article was originally published in the Miami Herald.