Digital Works (DW) is closing its Gallipolis facility after more than three years of work with the local community. The Connected Nation (CN) program, which continues to operate in six states nationwide, provides training in digital literacy, customer service, and computer skills, as well as job placement assistance to both rural and urban communities. When the program officially wraps its work at the Gallipolis location on July 14, it will have served nearly 200 program participants creating 176 southern Ohio-area jobs making it the most successful location to date.
“We live in a small, rural town that’s far from any industrial area. The main job opportunities have been coal mining, but in the last ten years the coal mines have closed. We’ve had kind of an economic collapse,” Penny Rowland, who graduated from DW in April of 2014 and now works at LiveOps and Amtrust, said. “Digital Works has helped our community develop an industry without having to build a big building or facility. Think about it—nearly 170 jobs in the last few years. That’s a significant chunk of people who were unemployed here who are now working. By comparison, other companies can spend millions of dollars to come into a community and end up creating just 15 jobs. Digital Works has produced a high return on a relatively low investment.”
The Gallipolis facility was opened in October 2013 and funded through state appropriations as well as Ohio and the Gallia County Department of Jobs and Family Services. That funding concluded this year. In that time, 33 classes have graduated with the last class wrapping on June 12. Sherri Shaw, who served as the facilitator, says she is still working with two of those final graduates to make sure they secure jobs.
“I’ve had great students—from young people to retirees to those dealing with disabilities,” Shaw said. “Some people have had to struggle, but I admire them. The people here are strong people. They worked hard every day to get a job and support their family. They each started out as students and became friends and family to me and each other. Many of them do things together now, and every time a new graduate gets a job, we all celebrate together—dancing, smiling, and cheering.”
“Digital Works training helps our graduates in all aspects of their lives,” Heather Delany, Director of Operations for DW, said. “They learn how to deal with people. They learn customer service skills, listening skills, and phone etiquette, as well as how to write a resume and cover letter. These things may seem simple but they are so important for someone’s ability to support his or her family.”
“In most programs, people get trained for the job but they don’t get trained to actually land the job. At DW, we train them for both,” Shaw added.
The trainees learn computer skills, including how to take typing tests. They also learn, among other things, how to use and handle the phonetic alphabet, military time, message transcriptions, and even how to set up a home business.
“Jobs are hard to come by in southern Ohio, and what Sherri and Digital Works did is amazing,” Larry Steward, who graduated in July of 2014 and now works for LiveOps, said. “I don’t think anyone else can do this or is even trying to do this for smaller and rural communities. Jobs and Family Services does a lot in our community but they can’t do it all on their own. Digital Works helped create nearly 170 jobs in just over three years. How many places can do that?”
Both Steward and Rowland not only were trained at Digital Works, but they were using the facility to work for their new employers. The DW site provided equipment and faster internet speeds than most families in the area can get at home. Gallia County Jobs and Family Services is now trying to help some of those who used the facility get affordable computer equipment for home and access to satellite internet service.
“I’m concerned because I won’t be able to come here [the DW facility] any longer to work,” Steward said. “My job is dependent on how fast my internet is. If satellite service isn’t fast enough to download or upload items I need to work, then I’m in trouble.”
For years, the Gallia County Jobs and Family Services worked directly with DW, sending the program potential participants.
“They were our champions,” Shaw said. “The staff sent us so many people. Many of those people have now gotten off government assistance and food stamps thanks to Digital Works training and job placement help.”
“We’re sad to go but we want to thank the people of Gallipolis for welcoming us into their community and allowing us to do what we can to help,” Delany said. “Right now, we’re an on-demand satellite location. If funds become available or a community champion wants to help fund a Digital Works boot camp, we would love to return to Gallipolis. In the meantime, our mentorship work will continue with our current graduates and we will support them from afar.”
Digital Works, a program of Connected Nation, connects people to leading-edge customer support and IT jobs for global corporations by providing training, mentorship, and job placement assistance, as well as the opportunity for advanced careers. Many program graduates benefit from the work-at-home opportunities available with the various Digital Works employer partners. Trainees without internet access at home or those who prefer a more traditional office environment can choose to work from a Digital Works facility.
Connected Nation is a leading technology organization committed to bringing affordable high-speed internet and broadband-enabled resources to all Americans so no one is left on the wrong side of the digital divide. We believe everyone belongs in a Connected Nation. For more information, please visit: www.connectednation.org or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.