OLEAN — With the ongoing pandemic, many people are likely using their computers more — and finding additional skills would be helpful for higher education, developing employment skills or obtaining certification.
At Boundless Connections in Olean, company officials are reaching out to the community by offering open enrollment for young adults and adults interested in gaining computer skills through the Tech Launch program.
Ryan Michelle Wilcox, program outreach manager for Boundless Connections at 160 N. Union St., said open enrollment is available at the company’s Olean and Rochester technology sites. The sessions are provided in-person while adhering to Covid-19 guidelines.
Boundless Solutions, in collaboration with Tech Launch, certifies participants, ages 17 and over, with basic technology skills. The skills include, but are not limited to, the effective use of Microsoft Office programs, email communications, internet searches and online calendars, while participants pursue their career goals.
“Our program is very people-centered to help them achieve their goals,” Wilcox explained. “So it’s based on what the member needs. Because different people come at it during different times in their lives, we decided that instead of having a set date for enrollment, we can adjust our program to cover the basics with people as they come in.”
For example, participants are “folded in with the rest of the members and they still get the mentorship and everything they need.
“But it’s really at their convenience and their pace, which is exactly what we’re trying to build here,” she added.
In providing an overview of the company, Wilcox said the business began with the Tech Unleashed program for teenagers several years ago at Jamestown Community College in Olean. That program, as well as tutoring sessions for operation of phones or computer programs, is currently not offered due to the pandemic.
“As (Tech Unleashed) grew, we opened our first tech center on North Union Street where the Chamber of Commerce used to be,” she recalled. “That grew so much that we needed to expand” a few years ago.
The expansion was facilitated through the company’s move to its current location on North Union.
“It’s double the space that we started with,” Wilcox said of the newer location which comprises 5,000 square feet of space. “We are able to socially distance, we wear our masks and we are well beneath the code for mass capacity — even with all our participants,” she stated. “We are very, very conscientious about Covid.”
The work space provided to participants includes a laptop, WiFi and mentoring for skills or certification needed.
“There’s also coffee,” she added with a laugh.
“We have people here who are pursuing certification for coding, Microsoft Office certification and online courses. People are pursuing their goals to learn how to animate on computer software — they’re teaching themselves computer animation.”
One of the young adults in the program is also attending college.
“Because his classes are all online, he wasn’t so sure of himself that he could achieve everything he needed to be able to do this year from home,” she shared. “He’s here and he’s able to attend his classes and do everything he needs to do and it gives him a set schedule.”
She said the program, which costs $750 a month, has scholarships available.
“Nobody is turned away for an inability to pay,” she remarked. “Anything they can afford to contribute to the program helps free up more scholarship money for participants.”
She said the business has also received a grant from the New York Developmental Disabilities Planning Council, which helps fund people with a developmental disability.