ST. LOUIS, Mo., March 27, 2013 /3BL Media/ - The OASIS Institute received a $500,000 contribution from AT&T that will help narrow the technology skills gap for adults over 50.

Older Americans are going online more than ever, but still lag behind the overall adult population when it comes to internet usage. According to a 2012 report of the Pew Internet and American Life Project, 53 percent of American adults over 65 were online, compared to 82 percent for all.

AT&T’s support will enable OASIS to expand its Connections technology training program, update curriculum and increase workplace skills training to help bring more mature adults up to speed.

“Technology impacts every area of our life – how we communicate, work, manage our health, access services and connect with our communities,” said Marcia Kerz, president of The OASIS Institute. “By helping older adults improve their technology skills, we’re helping them take advantage of all that technology has to offer, and utilize tools such as cell phones, computers and other devices to improve their lives.”

“We are constantly seeking new innovations to meet the evolving technology needs of our customers,” added Beth Shiroishi, AT&T Vice President of Sustainability and Philanthropy. “This includes expanding and investing in advanced IP networks, offering new technologies that provide consumers with more opportunities to connect with friends and family, and collaborating with organizations like OASIS that keep mature adults engaged in and benefiting from technology.”

AT&T’s support during the past decade enabled OASIS to develop the Connections program, an evidence-based curriculum for adult learners. The program includes more than 30 courses designed to help mature adults learn basic to intermediate technology skills, including internet browsing, email, social networking, job searching and essential workplace tools such as word processing and spreadsheets. By partnering with public libraries, workforce training programs, senior centers and other organizations, these courses are currently offered in 23 communities. Class enrollment exceeded 10,000 in 2012 and the Institute has reached 65,000 older adults since 2001.

“I learned everything from ground zero in the Connections class,” said Mary Ann Gomillion, 64, who took the OASIS Connections class through an OASIS partnership with AARP’s Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP) in Dallas. After two years in the SCSEP program, she landed a job with a pest control company.

“I learned how to navigate around the Internet and do research,” said Gomillion. “Then I learned how to search and apply for jobs on the computer. I used to be in front of the desk, filling out job applications. Now I’m the one behind the desk, working on the computer.” The pest control company has since gone out of business, but Mary Ann was undeterred and landed a new position with AARP as a computer lab assistant, helping other adults develop technology skills.

“Connections has given me the chance to take care of ME and see myself through new eyes. At 64 I am achieving my dream of being a positive part of the community and an inspiration to others,” she said.

More than 300 volunteers have been trained as Connections instructors nationwide. Robert Poindexter, 58, became an instructor in St. Louis because he wanted to meet other people and have a purpose.

“The most rewarding thing for me is when someone has been attempting to do something and they say ‘Oh, I've got it now.’ That’s when I think ‘mission accomplished!” he said.

As a Training Coordinator for the American Red Cross, Robert oversaw training programs for advanced life support and CPR. After being laid off when his wife was in the end stage of cancer, Robert decided to retire and began to look online for a way to blend his hobby of tinkering with computers with his training experience. "I was looking for something to keep my skills sharp and my mind busy." Robert has achieved excellent ratings from his students in the Connections classes.

The OASIS Institute, headquartered in St. Louis, provides a national instructor training and certification program to ensure quality. New e-learning tools will provide convenient options for volunteers to participate in training.

Since 2002, AT&T and the AT&T Foundation have contributed more than $3.7 million to support the program.

For more information, visit oasisnet.org

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