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Homeless gain entry to college

Dewsbury College invited homeless people to turn up, drop in and log on this week, in a bold attempt to unlock the door to learning. The college held an interactive workshop this week to give homeless people the chance to go on-line and to film themselves for the Internet.

Community outreach worker Mark Costello hoped that the lure of new technology would induce people to learn. He said: "With this event we hope to encourage participation from potential learners from diverse backgrounds and provide access to the ground-breaking technology which is at our fingertips."

Demonstrations of multimedia technology including the Internet and a web camera were provided by the college's media-services group. Video equipment, a music-editing suite and blue-screen film technology were also made available. The event was filmed on the web camera and can be viewed on the college's website.

After the event, homeless people were invited to look around the college and talk to staff and students about courses on offer and the college environment.

Mr Costello said that for many young homeless people the most important issue is to build confidence and to combat "the negative experiences of education" that many of them have. The college was giving young people the chance to DJ and to edit music to improve their self-esteem, he added.

The two-hour workshop was part of a drive by the college, the Single Housing Accommodation Project, Stoneham Housing and the West Yorkshire Youth Association to provide better opportunities for homeless people.

Dewsbury College has been providing training for people on the Inroads Project, designed to combat homelessness in the area. The college's computer literacy and information technology course is specifically aimed at these groups. Participants on the project have been attending Friday morning classes at the college and provision is planned to continue into the New Year.

Imran Anwar, 23, has been unemployed for two years. He was hoping to learn to use a video camera at the workshop and was full of praise for the computer course. "It has been brilliant. I've done word-processing, spreadsheets and graphs. It will help me find work," he said.

Mr Costello emphasised the importance of offering tailored programmes to hard-to-reach groups. "Information technology and the homeless is not a combination that people tend to think of, but there is a great deal of learning opportunity out there. This is a chance for them to see that they can achieve something," he said.

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