Last month, I visited both Stride Center in Oakland and Reliatech in San Pablo to tape a digital literacy feature video on their operations.  Look for two videos to air on our YouTube site in the coming weeks.  Every time I visit their operations, I feel so inspired by what can be accomplished giving persons caught in poverty a new life path through technology training.  I am also pleased to hear that after a grant from the California Emerging Technology Fund, Stride Center has expanded, and will now do even more with a new federal Broadband economic stimulus grant.

A non profit organization, Stride Center brings men and women facing barriers to employment (example, extreme poverty, past prison sentence, former gang activity, etc.) to their training center and surrounds them with a comprehensive array of intensive tech training, a business environment, job skills, and career coaching to give them a chance at a good paying job in the tech field.  A typical student, initially rough around the edges, will learn to be a Microsoft certified technician over six months of the demanding program.  The student will be taught how to dress professionally, be on time, and comport himself or herself in an appropriate manner for a business environment.   Under the able leadership of Barrie Hathaway, Stride now has training program locations in Oakland, San Pablo, Redwood City, Concord and Sacramento. 

We spoke to two graduates of the Stride program who are now full time techs or hold a position at the Center. Each had a different story to tell about how they felt hopeless about their future before, but the Stride Center program completely changed their lives.  By committing to the program and working hard for their goals, they each learned tech and business skills that gave them a life path that has given them a good wage to support their families. They spoke of their parents and family’s pride in their new successes, and how they have gained hope, confidence and self esteem.

Under the leadership of Ben Delaney, Reliatech is a social business enterprise operated by Stride Center.   Reliatech operates a community tech center where graduates of Stride Center may intern to learn to repair donated computers.  Reliatech sells the refurbished computers back into a low income community to enhance digital literacy.  Reliatech customers may get their computers repaired at a competitive low rate or buy a refurbished PC with an operating system, antivirus protection, and some basic software for as low as $150.

Stride Center and Reliatech are two examples of why digital literacy skills are important for California’s workers.  Tech skills give workers a living wage and a good job in an interesting dynamic field.  As they learn more computer skills, the technicians have a chance to advance in the tech field and continue to be challenged.  With the pace of technology, there is always something to learn and master.  Seeing the happy faces of Stride Center’s graduates, I can see why digital literacy is something very important for Californians.  This is why the California Technology Agency is advocating Digital Literacy for all our workers and students of all ages.