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Oakland to add NCs to housing

To train low-income residents for high-tech jobs, Oakland, California, will put computer terminals in all future public housing units built in the city.

    To train low-income residents for high-tech jobs, Oakland, California, will put computer terminals in all future public housing units built in the city.

    The Oakland City Council passed a policy last night to install network computers in public housing units so residents will have Net access, as well as spreadsheet, word processing, and database management software.

    IBM said it will set up 100 Network Stations for residents currently living in one low-income housing project in about two months. The company will provide some training, but the city will also set up a budget to support the new plan.

    "We were one of the first cities to make the microwave oven standard in public housing; now, it's no longer an luxury. The computer shouldn't be either," said Bill Uber, a spokesman for the city.

    Politicians across the country have been pushing initiatives to improve computer training for not only low-income citizens, but high school students and those living in rural areas. Technology companies are hungry for a new breed of skilled workers as the industry's growth shrinks the available workforce.

    Oakland hopes to fill those jobs with its unemployed residents, who are also feeling the crunch of the federal welfare reform act signed by President Clinton last August. The law turned control of welfare over to the states, put a five-year cap on lifetime benefits, and requires adults to find employment after two years of accepting assistance.

    "We think it is critical to make access to training as easy as possible for those who need it--for example, the single mother on welfare with small children at home and no access to day care," Mayor Elihu Harris said in a statement. "Not only will this make it easier for her to train for a good job, her children will be able to use it for education and help in their schoolwork."