Company taking V.I. workers online
Published: October 18, 2012
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ST. THOMAS - The V.I. Next Generation Network board on Wednesday heard from one of the companies working to find telecommuting jobs for Virgin Islanders.
Under the $3.6 million federal Sustainable Broadband Adoption grant, BetterWorld Telecom is partnering with the V.I. Next Generation Network to create two "hubs" to provide training and resources for Virgin Islanders.
The goal of the Sustainable Broadband Adoption Program is to use broadband technologies to transform the way the territory's residents live and work. The program involves skills training, business development and entrepreneurship training.
The public-private partnership with BetterWorld has resulted in ConnectSpace VI, an office space in Frederiksted that will hold its grand opening from noon to 2 p.m. Monday.
BetterWorld President Matt Bauer told the board Wednesday that the office has been open since August, and the staff has met with about 200 people so far. He said they have been giving information sessions to let people know about "telework" opportunities that allow people to get contract work in a wide range of fields and work from home, a public computer center or the ConnectSpace VI hub.
Bauer said they have been working with people to see what their skills are and where they could be placed, and provide training for various jobs.
Telework is a rapidly growing career path that provides flexibility to workers and low overheard costs to employers, Bauer said. The types of jobs available include: virtual assistant; technical support; data entry; medical transcription; interpreter; and design work.
Bauer said only about 15 people actually have been placed in jobs so far.
James Kenefick, chairman of BetterWorld, said the biggest challenge is getting people to come back after the first information session and follow through on tasks such as submitting a resume and cover letter. He thinks people are scared, because it is a new way of working. Instead of having an office to go to every day and a boss who gives out assignments, teleworking is about managing your own career and work schedule, he said.
"The whole thing is about empowerment," Kenefick said.
Salaries for telework can be in the $40,000 to $60,000 range, and what may start as part-time contract work can often turn into full time employment with a company, he said.
BetterWorld has been conducting training sessions on St. Thomas at the V.I. Labor Department facility, and the company is looking for office space on St. Thomas to open another hub.
In other business, V.I. Next Generation Network President and Chief Executive Officer Lawrence Kupfer said the first seven public computer centers will be open by the end of the month.
The territory received a $3 million federal grant to build more than two dozen Public Computer Center facilities to bring broadband access to people who might not be able to afford a computer or Internet service. With a local match of about $1.4 million, the program's funding totals $4.4 million.
The bids to purchase about $1 million in equipment for the remaining 21 centers will be evaluated today, and a final recommendation will be made to the board in the next week, Kupfer said.
On St. Thomas, the first centers are at the V.I. Labor Department and the nonprofit New Image Foundation in Havensight.
On St. Croix, the sites ready to open are at the V.I. Labor Department, the Boys and Girls Club in Christiansted, the Walter I. M. Hodge Pavilion, and at the Louis E. Brown Apartments.
Wednesday the board:
- Authorized Kupfer to negotiate a contract with Cable & Com for the purchase of MaxCell fabric inner-duct material. The fabric-like sleeves hold the fiber optic cables individually inside the larger conduit pipe, taking up less space and allowing for future additions with minimal effort or expense.
- Authorized Kupfer to negotiate a contract with AT Construction Solutions to supply and install generators and transfer switches at the territory's fiber access points.
- Authorized Kupfer to negotiate a contract with J. Benton Construction to provide materials and install racks and steelwork inside the fiber access points. The fiber access point facilities are air conditioned concrete boxes in which the network's equipment will be housed.
- Formally adopted the previously signed memorandum of agreement with the V.I. Water and Power Authority to provide in-kind services to the network worth about $15.5 million.
- Added Vice President of Sales and Marketing Kevin Hughes as a signatory for the network's bank accounts.
- Contact Aldeth Lewin at 714-9111 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.