GALLIPOLIS — After four years of helping with training and job hunting for Gallia County residents, Digital Works will be closing its doors July 14, due to lack of funding.
According to Gallipolis location facilitator Sherri Shaw, Digital Works opened in 2014 and was homed briefly in the Gallia County Job and Family Services location as part of a partnership before moving to its current location at 859 Third Avenue. The program focused on providing job opportunities by providing a training and work space for individuals seeking technology skills training in either customer service or informational technology support in hopes of advancing to higher positions. Shaw said the initiative was offered at no cost to those who sought mentoring and that the organization had previously operated on grants and partnerships with Gallia Job and Family Services and others.
Shaw said the program allowed for area residents to work at home or from the Third Avenue location by telecommuting. Some mentored clients worked for tech giants like Apple. Shaw said it wasn’t uncommon for individuals who had gone through the program to be earning $15 an hour and some employees had earned upwards of $20 an hour through Gallipolis Digital Works’ connections. Workers communicated online for work.
Shaw praised the efforts of the Gallia County Commissioners and State Representative Ryan Smith in attempts to help find funding for the organization. Gallipolis Digital Works had predominantly been funded through grant initiatives.
According to the facilitator, 12 other locations had been opened in Ohio and nine of them had closed. Shaw was proud to list that the Gallipolis location had one of the highest “conversion” rates for trainees. Out of roughly 200 individuals served by Digital Works, 176 had managed to find and keep jobs through the program. Digital Works is a national organization, said Shaw, but each location is ultimately responsible for finding its own funding.
“I’ve been very blessed,” said Shaw. “We did what we said we were going to do. We found people jobs…Even if I knew, right off the bat, that we were only going to last four years, I’d still do it again. I have learned so much. I’ve been my own computer person, most of the time. I’ve learned a lot of computer and (employee) training skills. I’ve had a lot of great adventures and met the CEOs of companies and senators and representatives.”
Of Shaw’s favorite experiences though, she spoke of her client students.
“To see when they come in and see their face when they say ‘I got the job. I got the job,’ it’s just so exciting to see when they get a job,” Shaw said. “I’ve come to know the people and there are just so many who have come and touched my heart. And I hear and see the struggles. You get to know their family, some people who come through. We’ve had homeless people in our program and we were able to get them jobs, the fact that we could help someone and they didn’t have to go to college for it.”
“It’s a sad situation,” said Dana Glassburn, Gallia Job and Family Services Director. “It’s a shame a sustainability plan couldn’t be found to keep them afloat. We’re trying to assist the individuals that will be displaced as a result of the closing.”
Dean Wright can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2103.