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HELPERS: Free digital literacy courses click with Newmarket

'Some folks just need a little extra push to get started,' says executive director of Literacy Council York-Simcoe, which offers free online courses to improve employment and life skills
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With the rise of programming jobs and work-from-home arrangements, it’s no secret that technology has become an integral part of many jobs. In fact, it’s estimated that around 84 per cent of jobs in Canada require the use of a computer or basic technical skills — and that even low-skilled jobs are increasingly requiring basic digital literacy.

Thankfully, Newmarket residents looking to update their abilities or get a step up in the workforce can access free resources to improve their digital skills — all from the comfort of their own home.

This year, Literacy Council York-Simcoe will be offering ongoing ABC Connect for Learning workshops, available online at The adult learning centre, which helps adults in the region build their reading, writing, math, computer, and employment skills, hopes these courses will help increase individual opportunities for success both at home and in the workforce.

As courses are self-paced with year-round registration, those looking to gain a new skill can start and learn when it’s most convenient.

On the digital side of things, offerings include a basic introduction to computers, keyboards and mice, using the internet through a variety of browsers, writing and sending emails, Microsoft Office essentials, and finding your way around Windows and Mac operating systems.

Other courses cover a wide range of personal development, ranging from ‘soft skills’ like effective communication and self-management to general reading, writing and mathematics.

“Digital literacy really covers a lot of different aspects of your life, such as ordering medications online or doing your banking,” said Alison Howard, ABC Life Literacy Canada executive director. “There are so many different aspects of how digital literacy touches our lives. It’s critically important these days.”

So, too, can digital literacy classes help address deeper issues in the workforce. Studies show that underrepresented groups such as Indigenous peoples, immigrants, language minorities, and 16 to 24-year-olds are more likely to struggle with problem-solving in technology-rich environments, meaning access to skill-building courses could help advance equity in the workforce.

But while some people may benefit more than others, Howard believes everyone can learn something from the courses.

“Technology is changing so fast, all of us are racing to keep up,” said Howard. “Some folks just need a little extra push to get started practising and using digital devices and learning about popular applications. That’s what our materials are really for.”

Literacy Council York-Simcoe will continue working with local employment agencies to enhance the skills of job seekers. As these agencies have firsthand experience with industry standards, they’re able to request courses that they know will be beneficial for people in the area.

Visit Literacy Council York-Simcoe’s website to enrol.