Creating Valuable Partnerships to Combat the Growing Digital Skills Gap

Des Moines Area Community College (DMACC) partnered with Facebook as part of its plan to train 1 million people across the U.S. by 2020, by ensuring business owners have the skills they need to grow their business, and that job seekers have the tools they need to compete in the digital economy.

As organizations and corporations consider where to focus their attention in workforce development over the next few years, one can reasonably argue that continued investment in helping their employees gain digital media and marketing skills might offer, like the platforms upon which they rely, a reasonable and essential return on investment.

At the very least, the integration of digital skills education into the ongoing discussion about the Future of Work and meeting workforce demands is a key ingredient. Whether this is through private/public partnerships, vocational and trade school programs, or accessible community college curricula, this training is arguably more likely to lead to the development of more balanced workforce development policy and ensure more Americans prosper in our rapidly evolving digital age. It’s also very good for business.

In Middle America (more specifically, in Des Moines, IA), Facebook found that managers of small businesses almost universally believe a social media presence is important to growth (94 percent), but that less than a third (27 percent) of individuals believe their skills in this area are sufficient. More importantly, most U.S. employees pointed to employers as being responsible for teaching and developing digital skills. As educators, this perception of who provides training raises concern but also has allowed us to provide better, more proactive, solutions to serve our communities. 

To help combat this within its region, Des Moines Area Community College (DMACC) partnered with social media powerhouse Facebook as part of its plan to train 1 million people across the U.S. by 2020, by ensuring business owners have the skills they need to grow their business, and that job seekers have the tools they need to compete in the digital economy. With this collaboration, DMACC became the first of 20 community colleges in the U.S. to launch a Facebook-branded Digital Marketing Certificate. DMACC’s faculty and academic team developed an in-house curriculum, which included courses on the Digital Marketing Ecosystem, SEO and Inbound Marketing, Social Media Marketing, Target and Outbound Marketing, and a Capstone Project.

Within 12-hours of registration, the first course filled and a waitlist for future cohorts was created. Initial participants reported that their skills increased and they gained the necessary knowledge to be more effective in their current jobs. One student recounted how she and her husband had opened a small business in 2017 with the eventual goal to quit her full-time job and handle their business’ marketing efforts.

In an age when more than half (52 percent) of HR professionals say the skills gap has worsened or greatly worsened in the last two years, it is imperative that we, as educators work to form partnerships to close the gap between business needs and students’ skills.

Michael J. Hoffman, executive director of Continuing Education at Des Moines Area Community (DMACC), has worked in education for more than 30 years, spending nearly half of those with DMACC in various areas. His extensive knowledge of workforce trends and building better partnerships has supported DMACC for the last five years in his current position. As the largest community college in the state of Iowa, DMACC served 66,000 credit and non-credit students throughout the state of Iowa in 2018. To learn more about DMACC, visit



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