Free computer skills training offered to Valley residents

Oct. 17—MILTON — Valley residents who need to improve their computer skills, or just need access to the technology, are invited to participate in a free yearlong program offered through the Central Susquehanna Intermediate Unit (CSIU).

The CSIU received a $135,000 state grant to establish four computer labs located in Milton, Lewisburg, New Columbia and Bloomsburg where a trainer will be available to train or guide individuals on laptop computers.

“The COVID pandemic drove home the realization about the importance of technology,” said Mary Mingle, adult education and digital literacy program manager at the CSIU. “Employers say that many workers are lacking basic computer skills. It’s been our experience that majority of folks who need services don’t have laptops or desk computers.”

A 2019 poll by the Pew Research Center showed that the majority of U.S. adults can answer fewer than half the questions correctly on a digital knowledge quiz. Many struggled with certain cybersecurity and privacy questions, researchers said.

Most people on average in the U.S. can correctly answer questions about topics like phishing scams or website cookies, but they struggled with some other topics, like two-factor authentication.

“Just 28% of adults can identify an example of two-factor authentication — one of the most important ways experts say people can protect their personal information on sensitive accounts,” researchers reported.

According to the report, 24% of Americans knew private browsing only hides browser history from other users of that computer. About half of respondents, 49%, said they were unsure what private browsing does.

In addition to providing formal computer training in person and online with an opportunity to earn a certificate, participants will be shown what sites to avoid, how to find reliable information on the Internet and how to monitor a child’s use of the technology, help individuals use the computer for job searches, resume writing, interviews and other uses.

Susan Bastian is a digital literacy specialist who will be working at the computer labs.

“We’ll find out what keyboard skills they have and move on from there,” she said.

All are invited, free of charge, to visit the labs when they are open as many times as they choose, said Mingle.

“They may not want training, but they can use the technology at the labs,” she said.