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Hiring and Training Internet Mentors

Find resources and ideas for finding and training people who can effectively guide your community in Internet adoption.

A trainer teaches a group at a row of computer workstations 
Elliot Harmon and Sarah Washburn - April 12, 2012
If your nonprofit or public library is trying to help people use the Internet, you need knowledgeable trainers who understand technology but also know the communities you're trying to reach. Browse TechSoup's resources on hiring and training trainers.

For organizations that encourage broadband adoption and use in underserved communities, providing those communities with Internet access is only half of the solution. Meaningful broadband adoption requires trainers. Whether it's in a computer lab, in a classroom, or at home, people who are new to computers and the Internet often need mentors who can teach basic computer skills and help them navigate the web.

TechSoup recently completed a study of Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) grantees, and one common theme that came up again and again was the need for trainers who understand and relate to the communities the organization serves. Ultimately, friendliness and community-mindedness outweigh technology skills. As interviewee Jason Schroeder put it, "You can teach anybody how to use a computer… but they [the trainers] have to be the right kind of person that the public wants to spend time with."

When asked to rank the top three skills they'd look for in a trainer, librarians and nonprofits agreed on these competencies:

  • "Knowledge of subject matter; ability to make the technical sound simple (follow the K.I.S.S. principle!)"
  • "Customer service skills — service with a smile"
  • Flexibility
  • "Professional and charismatic approach in teaching"
  • Patience
  • "Ability to explain clearly and understand and answer questions from the trainee's perspective"

Resources for Hiring and Training Staff

Nonprofits and public libraries had different perspectives on some aspects of training and hiring, and we've gathered a few stories and resources from BTOP grantees below.

Resources for Hiring and Training Volunteers

Image: Computer Lab, Shutterstock