Local program helps women move beyond unemployment and poverty to experience financial stability through new technology-based program
(OLYMPIA, Wash.) – Another day without work. Another day with limited skills and limited options. Another visit to The Other Bank for shampoo, soap and toilet tissue. In October 2014 the unemployment rate in Thurston County was 6.3%. However, for those who live in poverty the rate is a staggering 30%. Even for residents who are employed, wages are low and poverty is high. Of particular note? Female-headed households with children have the lowest annual income of all groups: 24% of these households live in poverty. Many women are working, but in low-wage jobs that offer little opportunity for advancement.
The YWCA of Olympia serves many of these unemployed and under-employed women. In a recent survey of 200 YWCA clients, 76% reported that they were not currently employed. Respondents noted a lack of training, soft skills and confidence as barriers to employment as well as limited access to technology. These women have a new opportunity, thanks to a new YWCA program and The Comcast Learning Lab, which is supported by a $10,000 grant from the Comcast Foundation.
The Comcast Learning Lab is a critical component of the Women’s Economic Empowerment Program (EEP) fueling EEP’s job training activities and skill building workshops. The Lab enables the YWCA to create a real-world learning environment, specific to women, which will ensure their success. Utilizing the Comcast Learning Lab, the EEP offers training in frequently used programs such as MS Word, Outlook, QuickBooks, PowerPoint and Excel.
According to YWCA Executive Director Hillary Soens, “The Economic Empowerment Program supports the YWCA of Olympia’s mission to eliminate racial and gender inequity and advance the social and economic status of all women and girls. The YWCA, along with Comcast, is providing a unique opportunity for women to develop confidence, competence and connections that support their economic advancement and financial stability. This is good for women, for families and our entire community”.
Economic Empowerment Program participants are also excited about the Comcast Learning Lab. “I have wanted to learn how to use QuickBooks for a long time now. But I never have because of the price, my limited skills, and I don’t have a computer at home. I’m so happy to learn about the Comcast Learning Lab with these new laptops so I can use it here at the YWCA and for future jobs” said Tammy Daugherty, EEP Participant.
“Through this grant from the Comcast Foundation, we’re honored to help the YWCA support women in their pursuit of careers. It’s thrilling to think we can help in some small way to build a foundation for a lifetime,” said Steve Kipp, Vice President of Communications for Comcast in Washington.
The YWCA Economic Empowerment Program offers gender-responsive job training services specifically designed for women focusing on the complex set of skills, habits and supports that women need to be successful. The program is designed to respond to women’s unique developmental needs and focuses on increasing the competence, confidence and connections women need to succeed in the workplace, move beyond minimum wage employment and experience economic mobility. Over the course of the year 24 women will gain administrative, marketing, retail, supply, accounting, management, public speaking, and customer service skills. Threaded throughout the entire program are technology training and digital literacy skill-building sessions for women to break the cycle of poverty utilizing the brand new Comcast Learning Lab, funded by the Comcast Foundation.
Technology trainings and hands-on experiences include professional social media management, program marketing, distribution, retail sales, email communications, and organization of electronic files, all of which help create attractive job candidates and successful employees. The Comcast Learning Lab ensures that women enrolled in EEP gain the full benefit of the program by providing all participants with access to equipment and hands-on training opportunities, increasing their technology skills and confidence. The Comcast Learning Lab ensures that women are poised to enter the workforce and obtain a job that offers a living wage.
The Comcast Learning Lab consists of laptop computers, desktop computers, all equipped with the latest software including MSOffice Professional, QuickBooks-Education Edition, Lumosity Brain Games, and other training software. Headsets, flash drives and a locking laptop charging station round out the lab.
The Comcast Learning Lab grant from the Comcast Foundation is in recognition of Comcast’s commitment to the communities where its customers and employees live and work. Since its founding in 1999, the Comcast Foundation has distributed more that $122 million in cash support of programs implemented locally in Comcast communities.