Voices From the Lab: The Roughneck and the Specialist

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Technology For All’s Program Specialist Ken remembers the day he met the “roughneck”. “Roughneck”, a slang term for manual labor, is most associated with oil rigs. Houston is also associated with oil rigs thanks to the Port of Houston, the second-busiest port in the U.S. Less than 4 miles away is Mission Milby Community Development Corporation, a community resource for a neighborhood once paved with shells.

“This is a great place. It helps me catch up,” Jerry says. “I don’t have a car right now, so going anywhere costs bus money. This is just down the street.”

“I remember him Day One,” Ken says. “He’s been job-searching, but everything was online.”

That wasn’t his only problem. As they charted through job search websites, he realized Jerry held the mouse incorrectly, right-clicking accidentally and getting frustrated. “I was completely computer illiterate,” Jerry says.

His frustration when he had to create a username and password to apply online. “That took 30 minutes,” Ken says. Because Jerry was so unfamiliar with online registration, password character limitations were a struggle. He even banged the mouse with frustration. Once they’d finished, Jerry said, “That was a hard application!” Ken replied, “That was just the registration.”

Jerry’s struggle doesn’t reflect his industrious intelligence. He’s a Merchant Marine, a self-titled “wrench hand” and licensed forklift operator who’d spent years at the Port until recent layoffs. Despite his experience, these salt-of-the-earth-and-sea jobs were inaccessible when the application process was online. Jerry had no resume, no email and no computer skills. “If you don’t know how to use a computer, you’re dead in the water,” he says.

Slowly, Jerry began crafting a resume, saving drafts by emailing them to himself. He showed up four days a week, always with a new list of websites with jobs. Now, he navigates websites with ease. “You could see the progression. His frustration levels went down through the weeks.”

Now, Jerry feels much more confident about the job hunt armed with a resume. He attends job fairs with his fiancée, applies online through job search and company websites and logs all jobs he’s applied for (so far it’s at 70). But his confidence also comes from what he’s accomplished. “Just being able to send out a resume is huge for him,” Ken explains.

To date, Jerry has received multiple job offers. Unfortunately, he has turned them down due to a lack of transportation—most labor jobs are miles away from a Metro route. This reinforces how under-resourced the communities we serve are; access to modern support and opportunities rarely, if ever, has one limitation. But by providing digital training and access, TFA removes major barriers to the opportunities these communities need and work for.

Mission Milby Community Development Corporation is a nonprofit serving Houston’s Pecan Park and Greater East End neighborhoods. It offers classes on exercise, computers and more. For more information, call (713) 454-6464 or visit 2220 Broadway.

Source: Technology For All

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