HTC’s TECbridge Bridges Digital Divide

In today’s technology-driven business environment, jobs that offer a “living wage,” benefits, and opportunities for advancement increasingly require technical skills and a comfort level with computers.  But up until now, a single mother working as a $6 an hour janitor or a father of four pulling the graveyard shift have had few opportunities to acquire the technology skills necessary to participate in the Workforce.
Houston Technology Center (HTC) is addressing this problem with the launch of TECbridge, a technology and interpersonal skills training program designed to provide inner city Houstonians who have few or no technical job skills with increased opportunity for employment that is sustainable, rewarding and has potential for economic advancement.

The workforce skills training program is designed to quickly equip underserved workers with the technical tools necessary to enter the workforce.  TECbridge will provide program participants with a basic introduction to computers, including foundational and intermediate level instruction in the basic applications used in today’s office environment. Students in the program will have access to a Web based training system that offers instruction in over 2200 different courses, which can be tailored to learning pathways leading to readiness for certification testing in a variety of Web-related fields, such as Web Developer, Database Developer, Technical Support, Network Administration. The pilot program will be a course of Web Development and will include instruction in the latest languages and tools being used to develop e-commerce and portal Web sites.

In addition to teaching technical skills, TECbridge courses also help students develop the “soft skills” necessary to advance in the business world.  Time is set aside each week for professional development seminars on topics, such as team interactions, appropriate workplace dress and behavior, business etiquette, resume building and problem solving. Additionally, designated mentors will work with students to support them throughout the program.

More than 20 students will participate in a TECbridge pilot program in the HTC / HP Computer Lab at the Houston Technology Center that launches on Dec. 3.  After completion of the pilot program,  HTC anticipates that the TECbridge courses will continue and the number of participants may double or triple.

Students must be at least 18 years old, have a high school diploma or GED, and have proof of citizenship.  Ideally, they are residents of Midtown or a surrounding Economic Enterprise Community (EEC).

TECbridge, a program of the Houston Technology Center, is a collaborative effort among several Houston non-profit, business and educational entities, including the Association for the Advancement of Mexican Americans (AAMA); Distributed Network Services Corp (DNScorp); Houston Area Technology Advancement Center (HATAC); the Houston Community College System (HCCS); Houston Technology Center (HTC); The Telecom Opportunity Institute (TTOI); and Technology For All Houston (TFAH).

“The success of TECbridge will be measured by the number of students who become employed or increase current employment as a direct result of skills attained through participation in the program,” said Janice Dorr, HTC’s director of educational services.  “At the end of the day, what matters is not how highly skilled the graduate is, or how well he or she performed in the class, but whether or not he or she finds employment that leads to economic opportunity.”

“Many educational programs offer training on similar technical skills, but none is offered by an organization as closely aligned with the needs of the business community as the Houston Technology Center,” said Paul Frison, president and CEO of HTC.  “HTC’s close affiliation and daily contact with large corporations represented on its Board of Directors and Advisory Boards, with emerging businesses and with the general business community will allow HTC to assist program graduates with meaningful job placements.”

TECbridge builds on the successful model of the AAMA/George I. Sanchez Charter School technology training program.  In 1999, HTC partnered with AAMA, and created an innovative program that offered training in computers and the Internet to at-risk, low-income high school juniors and seniors.  HTC engaged the corporate community to secure jobs for 14 of the 22 graduates, in companies such as Southwest Bank of Texas, DNScorp and Lockheed Martin.

“Part of HTC’s mission to the business and civic communities is to cultivate a workforce of educated technical professionals,” said Frison.  “TECbridge’s unique integrated approach to skills training and workforce growth will both help position Houston as a leading city for technology-based businesses, and transform the lives of individuals and families as they begin to move from poverty to productivity and economic prosperity.”