Skills-Training For Women

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 program.

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 Hall.

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 training.

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 several reasons.

  • 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 Centre.
  • 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 Hall.
  • The learners are 80% women and two-thirds immigrant.
  • The learning takes place in a non-threatening and non-institutional setting.
  • 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 certificate.
  • Students are treated as adults, not numbers. Classes are small which fosters more personal and informal relations between staff and students.
  • The trainees participate in planning courses and program changes.
  • The female management and majority female staffs at Dixon Hall are sensitive to the special learning needs of women.

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