“By training just nine professionals from ORT-KesherNet centres in small towns we will enable thousands more women to overcome social and structural barriers which have been working against their enjoying the benefits of a growing economy and the digital revolution,” said ORT Russia National Director Dr Sergey Gorinskiy.
As economies become more dependent on technology, so the digital divide becomes an ever more serious challenge. And in the Former Soviet Union, where women are more likely to live below the poverty line than men, it is a big problem, said Dr Gorinskiy.
His study, Women in Technological Society: a Challenge to the Modern School, has informed the teaching of technological subjects in ORT’s school network in order to close the gap between the genders.
But the evolution of high school education has come too late for many and to help them, ORT has found an excellent partner in Project Kesher, with which it collaborates on the ORT-KesherNet centres.
Until now, the ORT-KesherNet Centres have used HP’s Micro-enterprise Acceleration Programme (MAP) and Graduate Entrepreneurship Training through IT programme (GET-IT), which ORT, as one of the technology giant’s four global Centres of Excellence, is its partner in the region, has adapted to suit local needs with award-winning results.
Like those programmes, HP’s LIFE teaches the practical applications of technology in a business and entrepreneurial context. But it aims to reach a broader audience and to teach technology in a more advanced, up-to-date way.
Also, unlike MAP and GET-IT, its curriculum is split into different entrepreneurship levels in order to address people with varying degrees of experience in business and with varying technological skills.
“Unemployment is almost non-existent in big cities like Moscow,” said Dr Gorinskiy, who conducted the training together with Violetta Berestova at the ORT-KesherNet Centre in Tula, Russia.
“But in the small towns where the ORT-KesherNet centres are situated it can be as high as 10 per cent,” he continued. “There are simply not the opportunities to work for big companies, so one of the best ways to make a living is to start a business. But although, at school, girls tend to do better at learning technology than boys, they tend not to appreciate its work-related potential. When combined with social attitudes which favour men in technology-related professional roles, we find that women often don’t have the skills they need to get ahead in the 21st century.”
For Dr Gorinskiy, conducting the training was a chance to get to know more of the people on the front line of this effective vocational training initiative, a reminder, he said, of just how good the teachers are.
Among them was Dina Bruske, Director of the ORT-KesherNet ICT Centre in Tambov.
“The HP LIFE course is very valuable,” Ms Bruske said. “It answers so many questions asked by new entrepreneurs by covering a wide range of real-life situations. And the skills gained by the end of it can be just as useful for those working for companies as for those developing their own firms.”
And Elena Feldman, Director of the ORT-KesherNet Centre in Tula, added: “People setting up their own businesses save so much time and resources by using what they have learned from the HP LIFE programme. But it not only optimises business processes – it’s cool!”
World ORT Director General and CEO Robert Singer said that “training the trainers” was a core concept in ORT’s approach.
“Local people know best what their local needs are. As a long-established, international organisation we make tremendous expertise available to communities so that they can develop the capacity to help themselves,” Mr Singer said. “It is very encouraging to see that more and more women are receiving technology training and attaining senior positions in high-tech companies in the countries of the Former Soviet Union as well as around the world – and that ORT is contributing to this development.”