Accessing job training and trying to conduct a job search is stressful during the best of times, and even more so during a pandemic. But for people who don’t have access to Wi-Fi and a laptop or tablet, the challenge can feel insurmountable.
That’s why the employment experts at JVS Boston launched their new Technology Access Program, with support from CJP. This program puts laptops, tablets, and Wi-Fi access within reach of JVS students and job seekers so they can continue their classes, job applications, and interviews in a remote environment.
“It’s a simple solution, but it’s a complex program to run,” says Barbara Garner, VP of academic services at JVS. “Prioritizing, figuring out what each user needs, how long they will need the technology for, and how to train them to use it—it’s a bit like being an air traffic controller.”
For every obstacle, the inventive staff at JVS found a solution.
No Wi-Fi? They purchased hotspots for students to access the internet. What about users with limited technology skills, or for whom English is a second language? They designed a check list to determine the skill level of each user, created training videos in multiple languages, and provided over-the-phone technical support to users in their preferred languages.
Finally, what about users who don’t have transportation to pick up the equipment? JVS arranged to deliver devices to their doors.
The pilot program has already made a tangible impact. To date, approximately 125 laptops and tablets have been distributed to JVS students and clients. And many more are being distributed each week as needed. Once they have completed their studies or finished their programs, borrowers will return the devices so they can be deployed to other users.
Before the pandemic, one student had completed her Boston Central Adult High School diploma with JVS in person, using the JVS computers in the classrooms. She then began the JVS Bridge to College and Careers program but had to shift to online participation during the pandemic.
She says: “The computer has helped me so much. My mind does not worry now. Before, I had to use my kid’s school computer and it was so stressful. The hot spot is amazing. Before, the internet locked me out all the time, but not anymore. I appreciate my JVS computer a lot.”
For another client, Chantal, who is a refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo, the laptop has been a critically important tool for learning English.
“For me, the laptop helps to study English conversations, verbs, vocabulary, many lessons,” she says. “Also, now I know how to use the Zoom. I say thank you to JVS for having helped me.”