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DOCK grant to push digital literacy
Rudimentary computer skills to be taught
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A grant that allows Barton Community College to teach “digital literacy” could lead to job opportunities for people in central Kansas after they learn rudimentary computer skills, according to Dr. Kathy Kottas, dean of Workforce Training and Community Education.

The college has received a $190,000 Digital Opportunities Connect Kansas (DOCK) grant and the BCC Foundation will provide a $10,000 match, bringing the total to $200,000.

With this money, the “Advancing Digital Literacy in Barton County and Central Kansas” Project will allow area residents to receive training in digital literacy skills and proficiency in dealing with online privacy and cyber-security issues. 

“This grant fell into our lap at the perfect time,” Kottas said. Thirty Barton employees had just finished spreadsheet training and were able put that to use. They had about three weeks to write and submit a grant proposal through the Kansas Office of Broadband Development (KOBD) with support from Kansas Workforce One, Great Bend Chamber of Commerce and Great Bend Economic Development offices.

“Lack of basic computer skills places substantial roadblocks to success in obtaining education, health care, employment, or advancing their current career,” Kottas said.

This grant is aimed at counties designated as “economically distressed.” Barton and all of its service area counties have that designation, she said.

For the first year, the grant will focus on Barton County. Rudimentary computer training will be offered in Great Bend, Claflin, Ellinwood and Hoisington at no charge or a minimal charge. Computers will be available for participants to use as they earn Microsoft Office certifications.

In future years, it will spread to the rest of the service area: Russell, Rush, Pawnee, Ellsworth counties,  a portion of Rice County, and a portion of Stafford County, and to justice-involved individuals. Justice-involved individuals are people who have had interactions with the criminal justice system as a defendant – such as convicts, parolees and people released to community corrections, Kottas explained.

Overall, the project will provide training opportunities for 1,000 community members plus 500 justice-involved individuals.