Oakland and IBM Ready to Bridge 'Digital Divide'

New Learning Center Marks Start of Model Computer Training Program for Public Housing Residents

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OAKLAND, Calif - 29 Jul 1999: -- The City of Oakland, IBM, BRIDGE West Housing and the Acorn Resident Council today announced the opening of the Acorn Smart Housing Learning Center.

The center will provide computer training and job placement assistance to low-income residents, teaching them the professional skills needed to participate in today's high-tech workforce. After a year of construction, Phase I of the Acorn Smart Housing development is now complete, with residents scheduled to move into their newly wired apartments this week and computer training beginning immediately.

Classroom training will be provided initially in the Acorn Learning Center, and the student-residents will be able to continue their studies on IBM Network Station thin-client computers provided in each of the 293 apartments. IBM has added a new K-12 education element since the program's initial concept to complement school curriculum and help improve students' performance.

This unique $3.1 million pilot project has received national attention and is seen as a model program for replication throughout the country. The Acorn program recently received a ``Best Practices'' award from the U.S. Housing and Urban Development Department (HUD).

"The City of Oakland is proud to participate with IBM in introducing computers into the homes of residents in this community,'' said City of Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown.

"This is an especially exciting project for IBM because of our long-standing commitment to education and technology -- areas that we believe are key in developing a strong and self-sufficient workforce,'' said John Pratt, director of IBM Enterprise Learning Services. "IBM has brought its own best practices to this project by applying technology and business principles to job training and K-12 education. We are thrilled to see them come together with the opening of the Acorn Learning Center.''

The opening of the Learning Center begins Phase II of the Acorn Smart Housing pilot. After basic PC training at the Learning Center, student-residents can begin course work on low-maintenance IBM Network Station computers installed in each of their apartments. The course work for adults, developed by IBM, will include job-related technology based courses, literacy training and GED preparation. In addition to providing an initial supply of educational courses for children, IBM will work with the Oakland school district to closely align and integrate Acorn curricula with local school programs.

Phase III, the Welfare to Work phase, will work with the local business community to build a curriculum that will develop skills to prepare residents for mainstream jobs. Job placement will then occur directly through local businesses, through temporary employment agencies and/or Welfare to Work agencies. Phase III will be implemented as student-residents demonstrate proficiency at their defined curricula. This phase will be customized to fit the performance of each student.

This project is funded by the City of Oakland and by various federal and state grants. In addition to IBM and BRIDGE West Housing, other partners in the Acorn Smart Housing Development include Pacific Bell and systems integrator Oakland Computer Company.

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