Parkland class brings computer knowledge -- and a computer

Parkland class brings computer knowledge -- and a computer

CHAMPAIGN – Brian Bell is finding new homes for computers through a program at Parkland Community College.

The entry-level class for computer maintenance is also helping some people to bridge what is called the "digital divide."

"Students take the class, then take a machine home," said Bell, 39.

His class is a way to get new skills, Bell said.

"There are 2,000 people a day going through the doors at the state unemployment office," Bell said. "Most are (age) 40-plus and had been working, paying taxes, but became unemployed."

Most of the students have no computers at home, let alone computer skills, Bell said.

"They need a job, they need a resume, but there is no such thing, these days, as a paper resume, not even at McDonald's."

They need to be able to create and have a digital resume, they need to be able to create a document and send and receive e-mail. They need to be able to do word-processing, he said.

"They can't get started without this," Bell said.

Richard Smith of Champaign, laid off at HumKo, took Brian's computer class.

"I could not even turn on a computer," he said. "I knew what a mouse is, but didn't know how to use it."

Smith learned how to create a resume,use job search Web sites and fill out an online application. So far. Smith has not had any job offers, but feels more confident with some basic computer skills.

"It opened my eyes to the 21st century," Smith said. "I never knew what it could do. It's a whole new world for me."

Esther Hood, 52, said she became unemployed a few days before Christmas in 2008. She saw an advertisement in The News-Gazette promoting computer classes at the state unemployment office.

"I was going there anyway and I thought it would be a good opportunity," Hood said.

She said she had only very basic computer skills from her former job and says most employers are looking for someone with more advanced abilities now.

"It just makes you more marketable," Hood said.

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