Economic Development, Higher Education, and Technology

Facebook aims to train individuals in tech skills

Social media company partnering with six local organizations to teach basic digital marketing skills.

June 22, 2018
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Facebook recently announced a pledge to train 1 million individuals and small business owners across the U.S. by 2020.

The announcement also highlighted the social media platform’s current work in Michigan. By partnering with 16 local organizations across the state, six of which are in Grand Rapids, Facebook aims to train over 3,000 people in tech skills by next year.

Parisa Zagat, policy programs manager for Facebook, said part of the company’s mission is to train local organizations to provide digital marketing classes for small businesses.

“In Grand Rapids, we‘re working with six organizations,” she said. “We provide them with training on the digital marketing curriculum so they can offer it for free and also receive grants.”

Facebook’s six partner organizations in Grand Rapids are the Women’s Resource Center, BLEND, Grand Rapids Opportunities for Women, The Source, Restorers Inc. and Creative Many.

“Our focus has been to work with local organizations because there are already so many great organizations providing these resources,” Zagat said.

The class trains enrollees in basic digital marking skills, including creating a business plan, building a marketing campaign and how to build a résumé, as well as how to understand and reach consumers.

Many of the local organizations Facebook has partnered with are focused on furthering minority entrepreneurship. Zagat said while Facebook has a broad approach to training entrepreneurs in tech skills, reaching out to businesses in underprivileged areas also is part of its mission.

“We’re focused on providing the most number of people with access to training,” she said, “but, in particular, working with organizations focused on underserved communities is a key part.”

Restorers Inc. is a Grand Rapids-based, Christian-centered organization focused on underserved communities in the Madison Avenue/Hall Street area. The organization’s business coordinator, Zena Patillo, said it was a great opportunity to provide digital marketing classes to entrepreneurs in the area.

“We need it, and we appreciate the opportunity to host it,” she said. “I thought these would all be millennials, but it was all age groups — people you thought would know how to do this.”

To date, Restorers has had 40 students enrolled in the class and approximately 20 have graduated. The organization already has performed two training cycles and plans to start a third one in July.

The classes also have had an “extremely broad” representation of business owners. Kris Mathis, business coach for Spring GR, a business incubator program via Restorers, who also teaches the Facebook classes, said most of their enrollees are in lifestyle businesses like photography, radio and other media outlets, as well as dance studios, restaurants and credit repair.

“Since we started the class, we’ve had a lot of good conversations,” Mathis said. “It allows businesses to test out their assumptions, what information their customers want to know. They can learn what works and what doesn’t work.”

Patillo added they have had two nonprofits come through the class. So far, all of their enrollees are established business owners.

“They may have been new businesses, but they were established,” she said. “They could have just made their first dollar or their first hundred dollars.”

The Business Journal previously reported in 2017 Facebook partnered with Detroit-based Grand Circus on its 10-week digital marketing boot camp offered in Detroit and Grand Rapids. Zagat said the partners graduated its first class earlier this year, and 85 percent have been enrolled in a new job.

“The Michigan work has been really wonderful,” Zagat said. “Grand Circus is a great partner. We’re really thrilled to be there.”

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