ARPA-funded EduTech aims to meet workforce needs by providing skills for entry-level tech jobs

A Lincoln nonprofit launched its first-ever tech courses on Friday, aimed at helping those changing careers or just need help developing skills to find a job.

“The goal is to get people into the workforce into entry-level tech jobs,” said EduTech program coordinator Kathy Najjar.

Hosted by the Center for People in Need, EduTech is free for its students. It is funded by the city of Lincoln’s share of $600,000 from the American Rescue Plan Act.

EduTech participants will study at their own pace for about 10 hours a week for four to six months to earn a Google Career Certificate, according to organizers. Participants can choose from courses in data analysis, IT support, project management, or user experience design.

“Our goal is to help you get where you want to go,” Amber Knapp, project director at the American Job Center of Lancaster and Saunders Counties, told the first group of students Friday morning.

The job center has partnered with the Center for People in Need in this company to meet the needs of a changing workforce.

“The greatest skill is [that] it shows that they are ready to dedicate their time and invest in themselves,” Najjar said.

So far, EduTech has 25 participants in its first batch of students. Najjar and the Center for People in Need have 100 scholarships for Google Certificates in their first year, she said.

Google ran the Center of People in Need to target underrepresented communities, Najjar said. This aligns with the nonprofit’s existing programs, which focus on helping low-income Nebraskans learn English, buy food or educate those who are formerly incarcerated.

“There are a lot of people walking into this building who have never touched a computer,” Najjar said.

While classes are online and students can complete work whenever they want, Najjar said she and other staff at the Center for People in Need hope to provide a more traditional classroom environment.

“They have a chance to come together,” Najjar said. “They can talk to people. They can complain together: ‘Oh, it’s really hard.’ They can help each other. »

Although Najjar believes the future of education will include more distance or online components, she said she wants to maintain a classroom atmosphere for those who need it.

Timothy Okoliko will be one of these students.

“I’m so excited because I’m here to learn more about data analytics,” Okoliko said. “The world is now driven by data.”