Local group works to connect unemployed people with jobs

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - A quarter of the people living in the Kansas City area do not have access to internet.  Nearly half of them -- 42 percent -- live in a household making less than $25,000 a year. Most of these individuals live in low-income housing.

Connecting for Good is a local non-profit agency, dedicated to helping people in these communities rise out of poverty.  But it says the number one way to do that is through education, which is nearly impossible without access to the internet.

"These days, if you don't have the technology -- in terms of laptop, desktop, cell phone -- it's going to be very hard to connect with those employers," said Pauline Johnson, an educational trainer with Connecting for Good.

She teaches digital literacy classes that can help connect people with jobs.

"Some have never even turned on a computer and there are those who are somewhat keyboard literate but they don't know additional things that employers would expect them to know," she said.

One of her students was Renee Pearson, who has been unemployed for about a year.  She said the year has been frustrating, especially since she didn't have a computer.

"Going to the library -- waiting in line," she said. "It's frustrating because a lot of people up there have their kids, and you can't tell kids they can't come to the library."

Pearson finished two digital literacy courses with Johnson. As a result, she was able to buy a refurbished laptop for $50.

"I was grateful, I was happy to get it," said Pearson.

Now, not only is she getting call backs for jobs she has found online, she's also enrolled to take online course to finish her bachelor's degree.

"With this laptop and having online classes, it's very convenient," Pearson said.

Johnson said for individuals like Pearson, before they can ever step in a work environment, they have to take the first step to become computer literate.

"Candidates will find themselves, perhaps walking up to the actual workplace but the first thing they'll be told is you need to go over to a kiosk and go online and apply there," she said.

Employers often don't even consider people who can't reach them online.

"Most employers are going to be technically prepared," Johnson said. "They've got state-of-the-art pre-screening tools and if these candidates are not prepared, they cannot connect with those employers."

That's why Connecting for Good wants to reach as many people as possible in Kansas City's urban core who may not even have a computer, much less access to the internet.

If you would like to help Connecting for Good's effort by donating a used computer, visit www.connectingforgood.org .

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