St. Paul is offering free computer skills classes at six new computer labs in recreation centers across the city.
Two of the labs are already open, and four more will open in coming months. The city’s goal is to offer classes and certifications to residents who may not otherwise have access to computer skills training.
“We know that our young people have to have access to technology,” Mayor Melvin Carter said at a ceremony at Hallie Q. Brown Community Center on Friday. “If you want to do anything these days, you’re going to be using some type of technology.”
In addition to Hallie Q. Brown, the new “Rec Tech Labs” will be located at El Rio Vista Recreation Center, Jimmy Lee Recreation Center, Dayton’s Bluff Recreation Center, Hazel Park Recreation Center and the Rice Recreation Center Teen Zone.
St. Paul’s Office of Technology and Communications will set up the labs, and the nonprofit Osiris Organization will provide technical support and offer technology courses. The city’s Human Rights and Equal Economic Opportunity Department is paying Osiris $68,842 for one year of tech support, software application fees, hardware and instructional services.
Once those funds are used up, the Parks and Recreation department will take over the contract with Osiris, said parks spokeswoman Clare Cloyd. There will be no cost for use of the labs or any of the training programs, she said.
On Friday, local leaders hailed the Rec Tech Labs as an opportunity to get St. Paul residents into tech jobs and transform the capital city into a tech industry hub.
“This is about a whole community raising itself up,” said Ramsey County Commissioner Toni Carter.
The Rec Tech Lab at Hallie Q. Brown was open Friday morning, and a few women sat down in front of computers to work. Gloria Massey, 84, said she’s been coming to the lab regularly to learn how to do things like copy and paste and make tables.
“There are a couple things I had trouble with and I needed to learn how to do,” she said.
St. Paul City Council Member Dai Thao, whose ward includes Hallie Q. Brown, said Friday that starting a job in IT 20 years ago allowed him to buy a house and move his mother out of public housing. He said it will be important to make sure the labs are maintained and kept up to date so residents can learn those same skills.
“Technology is going to evolve, but that’s great,” he said. “Because as residents of this community, we also need to upgrade ourselves, and technology is going to do that for us.”