A free program that helps Downeasters learn how to use the computer is taking off according to officials from Axiom Technologies and the Sunrise County Economic Council (SCEC). The Community Technology Program, part of a three-year, $300,000 grant from the John T. Gorman Foundation, has served approximately 300 first-time learners and 63 businesses since its mid-January launch.

“We’ve had 580 students enroll since January,” Axiom Technologies CEO Susan Corbett told members of SCEC’s Board of Directors at a recent meeting. “Of these, 330 are first time students. We’ve also got people coming back for second, third, fourth and fifth classes. We’ve completed 1,780 classroom hours and 112 one-on-one tutoring hours [with businesses].”

Corbett estimated that owners or employees of 63 different small- and micro-businesses have taken courses on how to use QuickBooks bookkeeping software, word processing, spreadsheet management, and brochure design.

“To date we’ve had at least 63 businesses represented,” she said, adding that 1-on-1 tutoring is also an option for business owners. “Tutoring is reserved for the business owners. It’s going great, and we are very, very fortunate to have [SCEC Project Coordinator] Sharon Foss as a teacher/tutor. She’s a dynamo, very hands on, and our students like that a lot.” Corbett added, “Axiom’s Educational Director, Jane Blackwood, M.Ed. coordinates and oversees the classes and strives to create an atmosphere that is relaxed, comfortable and inviting.”

Corbett added that the grant allows Axiom and SCEC to specifically tailor courses on a per business basis based on the business’s needs, and that courses can be held at the business or at locations around Washington County.

“Probably about 60% of the classes are held at Axiom’s Education and Training Center [on Water Street/Colonial Way] in Machias. The other classes are held at locations throughout Washington County,” Corbett said. “Our “location” is defined as anywhere we’re holding classes. We have held classes at the Lubec Memorial Library, the Peavey Public Library in Eastport, Washington County Community College and many other locations throughout the region.  We added locations in Forest City and Grand Lake Stream this summer. Calais Hospital has just signed on to host 12 classes. We’re trying to make sure we’re spread out around the county. At any one time there’s at least 100 people waiting for classes – either because they’re waiting for something to show up in their area or they’re waiting for the next QuickBooks class, or we’re working around their schedule. We’re thrilled with the results.”

SCEC Assistant Director Jennifer Peters explained that the Council is involved with the initiative as part of its effort to bridge the gap between economic development, education, and workforce development.

“Sunrise County Economic Council offers an assortment of low- and no-cost training opportunities for Washington County business owners and employees,” Peters said. “This collaboration with Axiom is a way to bring no-cost tailored training more directly to those who can benefit from it.”

For more information about how you or your business can sign up for a free computer class, please contact Axiom at classes@connectwithaxiom.com. Suggestions for additional classes and locations are also welcome.

SCEC, celebrating its 20th anniversary this October, initiates and facilitates the creation of jobs and prosperity in Washington County. To learn more about the Council, visit www.www.scecme.org.