Don’t recycle your old laptop or desktop computer at Best Buy, argues local charity CompuCorps – it can still be used in a new program to teach underprivileged young girls the ins an outs of the tech world.
“I think it’s important to show young women that there are female professionals in this industry,” said Zeina Osman, head of CompuCorps’ communications. “It’s not just for boys.”
In the eight week “My first Computer Job” program for 12 to 15-year-olds starting Nov. 3, CompuCorps is giving young women the chance to build a computer from scratch under the guidance of female mentors from companies like Adobe, Cisco, Microsoft and the Ottawa police’s IT division. The girls get to keep it too.
“Underprivileged youth don’t have easy access to computers. They don’t develop some of the skills their peers have by the same age,” said Osman. The youth are paid $25 for eight weeks and a rotating group of female mentors teach them everything from how to upgrade software to how the different parts of the computer connect internally.
“It’s a very slow process for a lot of them,” said Osman. “A lot of these kids are missing the opportunity to find out how computers work. This is a way for them to be on par with their peers.” By the end of the program the girls will have built a working computer from scratch and gained some very practical work experience.
“They receive a certificate and reference letter on completion,” said Osman. “It teaches them they can make money with this. The have to show up on time and they have responsibilities.”
Benefits for youth aside, CompuCorps benefits the environmental as well, she added. “It’s 30 times better to reuse technology than recycle. What they do at Best Buy is send scrap computers to China and melt them down for their metals. They won’t give you a tax receipt either.”
Osman said that when the iPhone 5 was released, people began bringing in their iPhone 3s to CompuCorps’ discount storeand were rewarded with a $400 tax receipt.
“We can refurbish it,” Osman said, “and a 16-year-old might get her first cell phone at a discounted price.”