AN innovative new WEA Illawarra program not only equips students with the skills to use and even refurbish a computer - they get to keep one too.
But that wasn't the only benefit for the 22 students who yesterday graduated from the TIC TAC program (Training in Computing ... Training and a Computer).
Since completing the five-week program recently, eight of the students have gained employment and the rest now have the skills, work experience and confidence to apply for work.
WEA Illawarra chief executive Greg Fisher said the goal of the program was to break the cycle of disadvantage by providing a clear career pathway for young people through training and volunteer employment opportunities.
"This program was made possible with WEA Illawarra winning one of 100 national $10,000 Telstra Everyone Connected grants," he said.
"WEA Illawarra partnered with Computerbank Illawarra to provide the three-part program, which is made up of digital literacy training, a volunteer employment experience and a refurbished computer resource.
"It gives students an overall understanding of the digital world - and helps them stay connected."
Computerbank Illawarra director Kevin Cassanego said the company recycled and refurbished computers for disadvantaged families and non-profit organisations in the region.
"As part of the program we were able to give students that hands-on approach - they got to rebuild a computer by pulling the shell off and refurbishing it themselves," he said.
"Plus they got to take it home."
Shellharbour councillor and former youth worker Kellie Marsh was approached by WEA to select students for the course.
"The program, for students aged 16 to 24, gives them a Certificate II in IT, but it also gives them the skills needed to help them get a job," she said.
Albion Park's Rebecca Johns had had no luck finding work since completing school two years ago. Having completed the course, the 19-year-old has gained a job in retail management.
She said she learnt a lot about computers and felt more confident about applying for a job.
Warrawong High School students Mitchell Holden and Samson Byishimo have also gained useful skills - and confidence.
"I came from Uganda with my family four years ago," Samson, 17, said.
"My parents felt there would be more opportunities for me and my siblings in Australia - and this program is an example of that."