Northeast Town public library offering innovative tech leg-up

Technical Skills Program facilitator Robin Duncanson shows off a cool pencil holder being used by the library, one of her creations with the new 3D printer available through her program.

LITTLE CURRENT—There is much being said these days about the gig economy and side hustles made possible by major technological advances that are changing how we work. But many find themselves on the outside looking in when it comes to these new opportunities due to a shortfall in the skillset that matches up with those opportunities. Thanks to a new program at the NEMI Public Library and a host of high-tech equipment, individuals can now learn or upgrade those skills.

The Technological Skills Development (TSD) program funded by the Ontario Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development is geared toward a “hands on” approach to building a 21st Century skillset that will enable participants to start a new career or enhance advancement in the career they are already in.

“All you need is a library card and the TSD program will give you access to the technology and the materials you need to learn,” said Technical Skills Program Facilitator Robin Duncanson. Ms. Duncanson, who recently retired from her career as an elementary school teacher with the Rainbow District School Board, said she jumped at the opportunity to head up the TSD program. “When I saw how the program worked, I was really excited,” she said.

At first Ms. Duncanson thought the program might be an overlap with what is offered by satellite community college programs on the Island, but a visit to local campuses soon disavowed that thought. “This was something completely different,” she said. “The program is designed to be flexible and to help overcome obstacles like time challenges, childcare, or transportation problems that may hamper your ability to get the training you need to build your skills.”

Ms. Duncanson said that the program will adjust access times (within reason) to accommodate participants availability.

The program is tailored to meet local needs as well. “Local employers have been canvassed about the skills their employees will need and how the TSD program can assist,” she said. “Businesses and other stakeholders are asked to complete the survey they received in the mail in early July, or to simply complete an online survey.” That survey can be accessed at nemi.olsn.ca/tsd-survey.

Among the equipment available to participants are a fully enclosed 3D printer, a laser engraver, a powerful iMac computer and an Alienware computer (a true gamer’s delight) that is capable of operating animation software or just about any other program currently on the market. The equipment is set up in a makerspace so that participants can fabricate their designs and a lending library offers equipment and training materials so you can learn at home.

Program participants set goals for themselves when they sign up for the program and will have access to supplies and training materials as well as mentorship, peer group opportunities and monthly information and resource support meetings.

Among the skills participants can learn are basic computer skills, graphic design, web design, fabrication, video editing, photography editing, social media management, textile skills, culinary skills, laser cutting, molding, modeling and just about any other skill that can be shoehorned into the program. “Flexibility is really the key,” said Ms. Duncanson.

As for the best part, the program and its materials are basically free. “All you really need is a library card and to register with your goals,” said Ms. Duncanson. “Library membership is free to all NEMI residents and a library card only costs $30 a year for non-residents.” Ms. Duncanson adds the caveat that although the program is open to library members of all skills and abilities, participants must be 15 years or older by at least March 31, 2023.

The program officially runs until March 31, 2023 (as of writing), but after the official program ends the equipment will still be available at the library.

Those wishing to learn more about the program are invited to visit nemi.olsn.ca/skills or contact the program at skills@nemilibrary.ca, or by phone: 705-368-2444.