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Purple Mai‘a aims to foster future digital creators
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There's a lot happening under the expanding canopy of Purple Mai‘a.
The first NFT Academy, which kicked off today, is sold out, the first open local program designed to teach creators and artists how to launch a generative NFT art project.
Purple Mai‘a continues to offer its Hiapo program based on Salesforce training and certification.
And the nonprofit native Hawaiian organization, founded in 2014, still offers its core technology education program, with summer courses covering Minecraft and Scratch programming as well as Hawaiian sailmaking.
But what caught my eye this summer was a new workforce development curriculum designed around a far more creative set of skills and potential careers. (Not that Salesforce developers can't get creative.) Next week, Purple Mai‘a kicks off its Digital Creators program.
Defining a digital creator
The free, 18-week intensive program is designed to help students — specifically, 2022-’23 graduating high school seniors, college students and graduates across Hawaii — begin the new path ("hoʻomaka i ke ala hou") to become a digital creator.
The term "digital creator" encompasses a lot, however, and the definition varies depending on who you talk to.
"They are dancers and videographers, writers and designers, gamers and comedians... many terms have been flying around to group together these creative self-starters winning over audiences and monetizing their crafts online," explains Shopify's Dayna Winter.
"Whatever you call them, they are a collective force: an estimated 50 million people make up the creator economy today," she adds.
As a workforce development program, Purple Mai‘a frames its digital creator curriculum around the possible career paths that it opens for participants. Candidates should be open to entry-level job titles ranging from Digital Marketing Assistant to Content Marketing Specialist to Social Media Coordinator, or even more technical roles like Front-end Web Designer or UX/UI Design Intern.
Someone falling in the middle might become a No-Code Developer.
A digital creator is not an influencer, insofar as an influencer's product is his or her own brand identity and audience. ("Buy this and use my promo code to save 15 percent!") But while some digital creators work for a specific business or client, many make a living based directly on the content they create.
Creating the curriculum
The Digital Creators program is a partnership between Purple Mai‘a and KS Digital at Kamehameha Schools and its Kaiāulu digital learning portal.
"It's centered around nurturing 21st century tech skills in ʻōpio (youth) and haumana (students) coming up," explains program lead Jack Solomon. "The market is emerging for things like visual designers, web developers, digital marketers, social media experts, and we see in tons of job postings that the market is continuing to grow."
Solomon, who joined Purple Mai‘a two years ago, is now a product designer with the nonprofit's Mālama Venture Studio. His background made him the perfect fit for the new digital creators curriculum.
"My skill set and background has been in the digital marketing and content creation side of things, so videography and some graphic design, and I've had my hands in a bunch of different projects in Mālama, the innovation and entrepreneurship arm of the organization," he explains. "I also do a lot of synthesis of research, piecing together things like websites and no code applications."
Working with many of his colleagues, including Purple Mai‘a cofounder Donavan Kealoha and Director of Operations Alec Wagner, Solomon designed the curriculum, the delivery format, and even some of the marketing for the Digital Creators program.
In fact, a lot of the coding curriculum used in the nonprofit's Hiapo program for Salesforce training is being repurposed for digital creators.
Participants will learn to use many of the tools that Solomon and other businesses and employers use, including WordPress, Figma, Canva, Buffer, and Slack. And the hope is to do more than deal in theoretical scenarios.
"The idea here is to actually work on real projects, launching real marketing campaigns, building real things, building real portfolio sites with real case studies," Solomon explained. "Project based learning, learning by doing, having a real impact with real companies in Hawaii."
To accomplish this, he said, participants need to be fully engaged.
"It's an intensive program, it's a time commitment — two two-hour meetings a week for 18 weeks," he says. "Like a semester's course load."
Ready for the next step
Ideally, the program benefits will extend beyond its four-month run.
"We bring a lot of the skill set and background to be able to not only teach some of the fundamentals of these digital creation skills, but then hopefully to also help folks get jobs," he said.
Again, building upon the resources rallied for Hiapo, Solomon says they plan to work with recruiters and employers in Hawaii and elsewhere to open up internship or career possibilities for program participants.
"We will be working with students to put together a portfolio, develop some case studies, work on their resume, their LinkedIn profile, and then even do mock interviews to get ready to come out of this program confident to speak with recruiters and those in hiring roles," he explained.
Those students will be fulfilling a local need, he added.
"We want these folks to feel like that they can stay in Hawaii and work for Hawaii based companies," Solomon said. "Even a lot of the companies that come through programs like FoundHer, which benefits Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander Asian women, find it difficult to find the talent they need to do the digital marketing and social media work that they want to do."
And while Purple Mai‘a programs are aimed at native Hawaiians, they are not exclusive.
"Ideally, coming out of this, we have native Hawaiian students developing the skills to become digital marketers to work for Native Hawaiian-led businesses," Solomon said. "If not Native Hawaiian, at least local folks and local businesses, keeping the talent in Hawaii and allowing our local startup economy and our economy in general to thrive.
"It's not always having to outsource talent, and it's not always having to leave Hawaii for those job opportunities," he added.
Solomon says Purple Mai‘a, Kamehameha Schools, FoundHer, Mana Up, Blue Startups, and other organizations are all working toward the same goal: having a self-sufficient local economy in Hawaii.
"We want folks to feel like they have opportunities here that are exciting, that they can work in tech, or they can work in marketing and social media, and do that in a way that feels authentic to themselves," he said.
"They don't have to leave and tell the story of some Silicon Valley company that doesn't resonate with them," Solomon continued. "They can stay here and tell the story of a local organization, or they can tell the story of a local school or local startup or a coffee shop or whatever it is, and they can feel aligned with those values and be able to communicate to an audience that understands them and that they understand."
The first round
The initial Digital Creators cohort is being limited to 30 people, and there is an application and review process. The deadline to apply is Tuesday, July 19.
"I think the plan is to run this as a pilot, and see where we're able to get with the folks coming out of this group and then iterate from there, figure out what worked and what maybe we need to add or improve and work on."
There will be more cohorts, he confirmed. And student status isn't a hard requirement.
"I guess it there isn't really an upper range, but it's going to be folks who are ready to upskill, who are ready to get job placement, probably at the lower end of the spectrum, intern or associate or junior positions," Solomon said. "We've been targeting that high school senior to college or graduate level person who's ready to move on from their education and start to work."
Photos courtesy Jack Solomon/Purple Mai‘a.