Yukon Learn forced to close its computer lab

Overwhelming demand for Yukon Learn Society's computers has forced the organization to shut its lab. Once bustling, the empty computer lab now hums quietly with the sound of 12 plugged-in computers sitting unused.

Overwhelming demand for Yukon Learn Society’s computers has forced the organization to shut its lab.

Once bustling, the empty computer lab now hums quietly with the sound of 12 plugged-in computers sitting unused.

It’s a loss for the nearly 150 people who rely on the computers to connect with family, upgrade their skills and research information online, said director Debbie Parent.

Yukon Learn offers free, adult literacy services to people in the community including computer literacy skills.

Since the lab opened six years ago, demand for the computers has “grown too much and too fast,” for the organization to keep up, she said.

When Yukon Learn moved its storefront to Main Street two years ago, it opened the “floodgates” for new members.

The nonprofit has had to dip into its savings account just to cover the costs related to the increased demand for the lab.

Each year, Yukon Learn receives $275,000 in funding. Almost half of that money – $120,000 – has gone into the lab, to pay for maintenance and to hire full-time staff to teach computer classes and oversee scheduled drop-in times.

“This summer has been crazy busy in particular at the lab,” said Parent.

Some of the computer users are Yukon College students who go to the lab to practise what they’ve learned in class.

Others take the centre’s free computer classes so they can upgrade their skills to find more meaningful work.

Many members have some sort of disability, said Parent.

“The people being targeted in the government’s recent social inclusion campaign – those are our clients,” she said.

Even so, Parent doesn’t think the $30,000 spent on the controversial sidewalk campaign should have gone to fund social programming.

“The whole campaign is needed even though I don’t agree with every tool (the government)

has used,” she said.

“They should have been clearer with their message.”

Yukon Learn’s clients were offended by the marketing campaign, she added.

The organization won’t be seeking additional funding for the lab from the Department of Education, which funds the group’s core and community operations.

“They’ve already been really supportive,” she said.

Instead, Yukon Learn will be looking for $160,000 from other federal and territorial purses.

Parent is positive the organization will be able to secure the funds and hopes to have the lab open again in late fall, she said.

Contact Vivian Belik at

vivianb@yukon-news.com