A new model for women's training is in gestation.
More than 20 community and women's organizations now offer a variety of
bridging and skills-training programs for women in Toronto. The programs are
small in size, locally controlled, informal, and attune to the special learning
needs of women. The participants prefer this type of training to a more
traditional institutional form. Community-based skills training for women is
here to stay.
Computers in the Community (CIC) is one such
program. It offers free part-time courses in micro-computer skills to
unemployed and low-income adults in Toronto, mainly women. The training takes
place in a 50-year old community centre in a low-income neighbourhood called
Regent Park. Dixon Hall runs the program in cooperation with the George Brown
College Foundation and Employment & Immigration Canada (CEIC) funds the
Equal access to the jobs of the future through
equal training opportunities this is the philosophy that guides our program.
Illustration by the students of Dixon
PART-TIME TRAINING IN
Dixon Hall initiated Computers in the Community in
the fall of 1984 to meet the growing demand by women for flexible training
options. The parent program, STEP, began three years earlier at Dixon Hall. A
successful work-study program for eighteen single mothers, STEP nonetheless
excludes many women who cannot commit themselves to 36 weeks of full-time
A year ago, we acquired 14 Xerox microcomputers and
potential part-time students requested access in the afternoons and evenings.
We had no funds, however, to start a new program. The media picked up on the
issue and 15 articles and 3 radio interviews later, Computers in the
Community was born.
Computers in the Community is unique for
- The program offers a learning smorgasbord - more than 20
courses in a variety of formats- 14-week, 7-week, 4-week, 12-hour and 6-hour
lengths in the afternoon, evenings and Saturdays, including a Computer Drop-In
- The courses are free - tuition is paid for by the CEIC.
- There are no academic or skill prerequisites for most of the
courses. You don't need grade 12 and 50 w.p.m. typing to learn word-processing,
programming, computerized accounting, or data base management systems at Dixon
- The learners are 80% women and two-thirds immigrant.
- The learning takes place in a non-threatening and
- The learners have access to a variety of non-educational
services such as free career and personal counselling, legal and financial
advice, a Music School for children, a children's summer camp, social events,
etc. This network of support is particularly valued by our women students.
- Dixon Hall is at the same time a bona fide "community
college". It is classified as a campus of George Brown College, so every
student who completes a course, no matter how short, receives a College
- Students are treated as adults, not numbers. Classes are
small which fosters more personal and informal relations between staff and
- The trainees participate in planning courses and program
- The female management and majority female staffs at Dixon
Hall are sensitive to the special learning needs of women.