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Facebook, National Urban League to Partner on Digital-Skills Training

Facebook is partnering with the National Urban League to provide digital skills training to entrepreneurs and small business owners across the U.S., the company announced this week.

Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook's chief operating officer, unveiled the partnership during a league conference in Columbus, Ohio, this week. 

With more computing and digital jobs opening in the U.S., the company wants to help more people "learn the skills they need to thrive in the digital world," said Sandberg, whose organization has faced a torrent of criticism recently over its data-collect and privacy policies.

As part of the partnership with the National Urban League, Facebook will offer in-person training on the tools available on the social media platform, such as the Business Pages, Messenger and Instagram, to help small business owners better connect with customers, manage a digital presence and grow their business, according to an announcement. The training program will also explore the different advertisements that small businesses can create to drive more people into their stores and build awareness of their brand by using Facebook or Instagram.

Starting in 2019, the free biannual training program will be available at 13 National Urban League chapters: Atlanta, Ga., Baltimore, Md., Chicago, Ill., Cincinnati and Cleveland, Ohio, Houston, Texas, Jacksonville, Fla., Kansas City, Mo., Las Vegas, Nev., Los Angeles, Calif., New Orleans, La., Philadelphia, Pa. and Washington, D.C. These hubs were picked because they are tied most closely to the League's Small Business Matters Initiatives.

The joint effort helps Facebook reach small businesses and underserved communities that need support, and contribute to their continued growth and health. It's part of the Facebook Community Boost program introduced last November to equip more people with digital skills they need to stay competitive in the economy.

The National Urban League is a civil rights organization that advocates on behalf of African-Americans and an urban advocacy group devoted to empowering communities. The New York-based organization will also join Facebook as a national advisor to help the social media giant toward its goal to train 1 million people and small business in digital skills by 2020, according to the statement. 

"We're grateful to partner with such an effective civil rights organization helping change lives for the better," Sandberg said at the conference.

Facebook has been under a lot of scrutiny lately over its data practices and allegations that certain groups and foreign nations have exploited the platform to influence elections. Despite concerns, many K-12 schools were generally reluctant to join the #DeleteFacebook movement, in part because they view it as a valuable tool for communicating with parents and the public.

The social-media company's founder, Mark Zuckerberg, has also sought to make his mark on K-12 through the Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative, a limited-liability corporation he launched three years ago with this wife, Priscilla Chan. The organization has invested in several ed-tech companies -- particularly those involved in "personalized learning" -- and provided grants to organizations across the K-12 space. 

In the wake of the data-privacy scandal, the social media company has made over the past few months an effort to win back its users' trust. As EdWeek reported this week, the social media giant has entered the digital literacy education space, unveiling a new Digital Literacy Library to help people learn to be critical consumers of digital information. Facebook has also released new tools that allow users to manage their time on the platform, as well as resources for teenages like the Bullying Prevention Hub.

The digital skills training program will be marketed by the National Urban League. 

"This partnership with Facebook perfectly encapsulates the focus of our mission on the intersection between digital technology and economic opportunity," National Urban League President and CEO Marc H. Morial said. "The theme of our conference is 'Save our Cities: Powering the Digital Revolution,' and empowering our entrepreneurs through the use of digital tools is a great example of how to make that happen."

EdWeek has been reporting on the intersection of school, technology, and the job market. See our recent special report, "Schools and the Future of Work,"  which looks at how disruptions wrought by articificial intelligence, automation, and shifting workforce demands are changing the skills and training students need.


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