National project offers computer courses to help fight unemployment


In recent years, computer skills have gone from being a great asset to a basic requirement, and nowadays it's very hard to get a job if you are not computer literate. While more and more people can use computers, employers in the Czech Republic complain that many job applicants still do not know how to write a document or create a simple table on computers.

With the unemployment rate once again reaching the ten percent mark, the Information Ministry has launched an action plan called the National Programme for Computer Literacy. Pavel Komarek is from the Centrum Internet organisation responsible for the project:

"In the last two years, we surveyed that there is a very low PC literacy in the Czech Republic of people who are either searching for a job or looking for another opportunity. We found that from the ages of 15-28 years, only 37% are PC literate and from the group of people aged between 30-45 years, it's only 25%, which is a very low rate, compared to other European countries. So, this is the key reason why we started this national PC literacy programme. Now, after seven months of managing this programme, through the whole Czech Republic, we have more than 17,000 people. So, that's also a sign for us that there is a real demand to know how to adopt PC skills and how to be more active in this area."

But even more shocking than the low computer literacy are the latest unemployment figures, according to which 524,000 people are currently out of work in the Czech Republic. That brings the unemployment rate to an alarming ten percent. The Information Ministry and the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, which plans to pump between 7.5-10 million Czech crowns into the project this year, hope to reduce that figure by increasing the overall computer literacy rate to fifty percent. There are already 241 PC centres around the country with 86% percent of the population enjoying access to a centre within a distance of 15km. For one hundred crowns per class, any Czech citizen can take a computer course at special PC centres around the country. There is no age limit and, as Mr Komarek points out, courses on all levels are offered:

"The whole programme is separated into two-hour courses and the first step starts with the first time at a computer. So, people start with handling the mouse and recognising the Windows system, and so on. So, it's really for everybody who has never touched a PC up to those who are willing to learn how to make documents, tables, and other stuff."

This week, the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, the Information Ministry, Centrum Internet, and the company LMC, which runs the country's most popular websites for job-hunters, launched a new project that is part of the national PC literacy programme called "Prace diky Internetu" or Work Thanks to the Internet. Its goal, as the name already suggests, is to teach people how to research and look for work on the web, in order to open doors to the thousands of potential employers looking for staff on the Internet. For a 150 crown fee per course, anyone can attend the classes at over 250 schools and libraries in 145 towns and villages.