Nonprofits team up for computer jobs

Boys and Girls Clubs, SERRC, train students in computer repair

Posted: Monday, September 18, 2000

Five computer-repair students sat down at a bank of 13 donated computers at the new Boys and Girls Clubs of Juneau last week to see what shape they were in.

The Boys and Girls Clubs and the South East Regional Resource Center hope it will be the start of a long-term relationship.

SERRC, a private nonprofit education agency, recently began training a few students at a time in computer repair, in Juneau and Ketchikan, to prepare them for entry-level jobs. Meanwhile, community organizations such as the Boys and Girls Clubs often get donated computers, but don't have the know-how to keep them running or the funds to pay for professional help.

"We're going to whip it into a network, and they're going to pay for any parts they need," SERRC instructor Edd Webb said.

"It sounded like a great opportunity for them to learn and for us to get a computer lab for the kids and the community," said Steve Bassett, who manages the Boys and Girls Clubs in a building behind the Nugget Mall.

The clubs want to use the computers for after-school homework, Internet pen pals and games, Bassett said.

The SERRC students will keep a record for each computer they trouble-shoot. The community organizations will be able to call students for help over the phone and to arrange for in-person repairs, Webb said. Students also will rehabilitate, upgrade and maintain donated computers for low-income families.

Stipends from repair work for nonprofits will help SERRC's computer-repair classes continue even after a three-year, $867,000 federal grant is used up. The grant also pays for activities that promote family literacy and the use of technology.

James Strang, a longtime Juneau resident who has worked in lumber mills in Oregon, sees the computer-repair class as a first step to running his own business.

"It's the wave of the future," he said of computers. "There's so many unfilled jobs out there, and I've got a pretty good aptitude for it. And it's a legacy for my kids. I'm thinking big, as far as my own business."

The course meets all morning five days a week for 12 weeks, with two two-hour labs a week, plus several hours of homework a night, students said.

Students started by building a computer from a bare metal frame, the case and a power supply. They installed a motherboard, processor, fan, a video card to create images on a monitor, and a network interface card to access the Internet. They added hard drives and drives for floppy disks and CD-ROMs and formatted the computer to accept data.

"Seeing it on paper is one thing. But actually doing it really simplifies it," said student Robert Danielson of the hands-on training that runs throughout the course.

Student Colleen Tilley moved to Juneau with her family about a year ago. She worked as a head housekeeper at a hotel until recently.

"You can only go so far in the management field," she said. "I'm always the type of person that wants to learn anything I can. I didn't see myself as learning anything (at the former job)."

After the class is over, Tilley wants to repair computers as a community service to get experience. Like Strang, she'd like to have her own business someday.

Danielson turned to computers after hurting himself on a construction job. He's earned a GED and taken an office skills class at SERRC. That made him wonder what went on inside a computer.

"I never even knew how to turn on a computer until a year ago. Working out in the field in construction, you didn't need to," he said.

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